Growing Aussie business brings flight testing to the world

24 July 2020

Prism Defence is an Adelaide business punching well above its weight on the world stage when it comes to helicopter safety.

The company, which specialises in ship–air integration and innovative solutions that support the development and management of ship–helicopter operating limits (SHOL), has worked with eight international navies since it was founded in 2004.

Since its inception, Prism has maintained a commitment to developing leading-edge systems that are innovative, reliable and cost-effective, and will enhance safety, increase operational capability and improve tactical flexibility in maritime aviation operations. This commitment, along with Prism’s focus on defining and delivering best practice in ship–air integration for their customers, brings with it a significant level of obligation and requires highly skilled staff to support each facet of the business.

Communications Manager Claire Suckling is one of Prism's most recent recruits and said it was an exciting time to join the growing company. “Prism is currently focused on preparing our ship-based software, HeliSAFE, for commercial launch. HeliSAFE streamlines the management of SHOL and compliance with SHOL, operational policies and procedures —all of which are integral to airworthiness assurance at sea,” Ms Suckling said.

'With specialists regularly working on board ships, alongside clients in the most extreme conditions, Prism is uniquely positioned to understand the operational challenges of the maritime aviation environment. This deep knowledge of the problem domain enables our experts to develop best-of-class solutions.'

While the business has grown extensively since it was founded, it has ensured that client needs remain paramount in the products and services it provides.

'We’re in a very niche market, so it’s important to communicate directly with the client to understand exactly what they need, and ensure they’re receiving and comprehending the most appropriate solutions, with benefits that can be maximised,' Ms Suckling said.

Prism Defence has grown across all areas of the company. Staff numbers have grown from 19 to 27 in the past year, with the software development team being the largest area of expansion.

'In 2017, Prism contacted the Centre for Defense Industry Capability to seek help from a Defence business adviser. We worked with the CDIC to formulate a skills advisory report and applied for an $11,000 grant to enhance the capabilities of our senior engineer and software developers,' Ms Suckling said.

'The funding allowed us to invest in a professional management course to help the senior engineer, who is also our general manager, to further develop his business management skills. We also invested in Agile software development courses to teach software engineers to apply lean principles to software development. Their upgraded skill sets have had an immediate impact, significantly benefiting our business. It’s especially encouraging to see our junior developers progressing and supplementing their existing qualifications with additional skills, while our business grows.'

Ms Suckling said maintaining Prism’s high-end software engineering and systems integration skills would require constant revision and investment, but the company’s vigilance in maintaining staff skills would be rewarded as the business had the opportunity to penetrate new markets.

Prism Defence now employs 27 Australians in North Adelaide for ship-helicopter integration services, including test pilots, flight test engineers, ship’s aviation specialists, software developers and aeronautical engineers.