Solar challenge race team pits connectivity against elements

Students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) put their solar-powered vehicle – plus BGAN and IsatPhone Pro – to the test when they drove 3,000km (1,864 miles) across Australia's Outback. The World Solar Challenge saw 37 teams from 20 countries pitted against each other in the race from Darwin to Adelaide.

UNSW's Sunswift Team from Sydney had the support of Addcom Contact Solutions, an Inmarsat service provider to resellers, businesses and end-users across Australia.

Vehicular terminal

Addcom Contact Solutions supplied Sunswift with two IsatPhone Pro satellite phones and an Addvalue Wideye Safari land vehicular BGAN terminal for their three-wheeled, carbon fibre vehicle, called Sunswift IV.

The equipment gave the team reliable and race-critical access to the internet and voice calls, even in the middle of the Australian desert where 3G networks are almost non-existent.

Thanks to the vehicular terminal, they were able to stay connected – even when travelling at speeds of up to 100km/h (62mph).

Sunswift used BGAN to:

  • Download customised hourly weather data and information from a supercomputer located at UNSW, which helped them calculate optimum travel speeds without completely draining the vehicle's battery
  • Keep followers informed via social media, with real-time updates, photos and technical data
  • Transmit updates to the web-based Sunswift Live map that enabled fans to pinpoint their progress

In addition, IsatPhone Pro allowed them to keep in touch with race HQ and the Sunswift support team.

Bush fires

During the race the competitors battled bush fires, dust storms and extreme temperature changes.

In the end, just seven teams made it over the finishing line, with UNSW Sunswiftcoming in a creditable sixth.

"It was obviously a mission to finish against all the odds, with such cloudy skies and temperature changes," said Robert Lewis, national channel manager at Addcom Contact Solutions.

"Thanks to satellite communications, the Sunswift team was able to download data to help its strategist calculate the best driving techniques and avoid disaster zones."


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UNSW Sunswift:



Above was extracted from Inmarsat Land Mobile Newsletter Issue 35 - Inside Track