On April 17, a powerful 7.8 earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador. DCI’s airline baggage flyaway was dispatched several hours later to cover the damage and recovery efforts. The flight into Quito went without issue, and after all our equipment arrived we visited a supermarket to stock up on supplies, since once arriving in the disaster area there would be no option for food or shelter. We bought packaged foods, a propane camp stove (for heating water) and tents.
The drive from Quito to Pedernales typically would take about 5 hours but due to the many landslides along the route, the trip took closer to 7. After arriving in the main square in Pedernales, we espatblished a standup location and begain broadcasting, less than 2 hours after arrival. We used the Eutelsat 113W (Satmex 6) satellite to single-hop the signal back to the United States.
Due to limited satellite capacity, we utilized advanced DVB-S2X 16APSK modulation to fit two muxed 9 megabit HD signals in a signal 6MHz slot. This technology not only saves money on space segment, but also allows feeds to be done when satellite space is limited, as normally happens during large events. The 16-phase modulation chosen for this broadcast works well with the medium-sized (5 meter) antennas that are common at broadcast facilities. The next step up, 32APSK modulation often requires much larger antennas for acceptable bit error rates.
We transmitted live standups and tape feeds all day, for European clients, ABC’s Good Morning America, and several stations from Latin America. Occasionally the search teams would request we shut down out generators so they could listen with microphones lowered in the rubble pile. Unfortunately there were no rescues while we were on site.
On the morning of the 20th, we had a magnitude 6.1 aftershock, which caused some alarm in the town but there was no additional collapses we knew of.