Maintain communications between 17 travelling team members in 6 different vehicles in the middle of the Australian Outback


From Darwin to Adelaide, 37 teams from 20 countries participated in the World Solar Challenge racing their own custom-built solar powered cars. However, without with telecommunications infrastructure for GSM or 3G voice and broadband connectivity, Sunswift looked at satellite communications to support their strategy. To facilitate the communications needs, Addcom Contact Solutions supplied University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sunswift an Addvalue Wideye™ SAFARI™ BGAN unit and 2 Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro satellite phones.

Thanks to Addcom’s satellite communications, Sunswift experienced confidence knowing that they could utilise voice and data connectivity at broadband speeds anywhere in the Australian Outback.

Customer Profile

Sunswift is a student-led solar racing team from UNSW, Sydney. Competing since 1996, Sunswift has since featured 4 solar cars and have earned multiple awards, making the team a renowned competitor at the international level.

The 2011 Sunswift team is made up of 30 students from the Faculties of Engineering, Science, and Business from UNSW who volunteer their time and skills to design, build and race a state-of-the-art solar-powered car.

Sunswift IVy, their latest solar car, was built for the 2009 World Solar Challenge, and has been the team’s main car since. Through many of its successful elements that were retained from the previous built cars in Sunswift’s design, in 2011, Sunswift IVy was recognised by the Guinness World Record as the fastest solar car off array power. Sunswift IVy broke the record at a speed of 88 km/h, beating the previous record of 77km/h set in 1987 by the General Motors Sunraycer.

The Challenge 

The World Solar Challenge (WSC) is an international race against world’s best technical universities and colleges in their custom built solar cars. In 2011, the WSC meet 37 solar race teams from 21 countries who had the goal of travelling 3,000km from Darwin to Adelaide.

All of this data is fed into the team’s custom modelling software which creates and tracks models of the solar car both mechanically and electrically in real time. Once the team has accurate models of the performance of the solar car, the team’s custom strategy software can analyse real time weather data and suggest optimal speed profiles so as to minimise the team needed to reach the finish line given changing weather conditions.

However, the lack of communications infrastructure in the Outback means that satellite is the only option to receive and communicate these weather updates, but given the rough environment of the Outback, any equipment had to be ruggedised and able to handle these extreme conditions.

With 17 travelling team members in 5 Support Vehicles and the solar car, mobile communication was required to pass on the latest weather updates between strategists and the solar car driver. Furthermore, given the amount of time the travelling team members would spend in remote Australia, being able to contact emergency services quickly if required.

Another challenge was staying connected with their fans. As anticipated, Sunswift knew it would be hard keeping fans updated whilst in the middle of the Australia Outback. So this year Sunswift wanted to try make sure their fans could be kept in the know about what was happening during their 5 day race across the continent. This required the need for consistent internet access in vehicles travelling at speeds of about 90kmph. Sunswift IV is arguably one of the world’s most electrically sophisticated solar powered cars in the world. Speed, battery power, solar power, tyre pressure, GPS data, barometer data, tilt and gyroscope data are but a few of the some 50 data channels being sent back to the solar car’s chase vehicle.

The Solution

Trying to maintain communications between 17 travelling team members in 6 different vehicles in the middle of the Australian Outback can be quite stressful, knowing that pulling over for a quick chat could mean a position on the Leader Board. To tackle the issue Addcom Contact Solutions, in partnership with SATCOM Global and Addvalue, became the Official Satellite Provider of the UNSW Solar Racing Team, sponsoring the team with the following:

• Addvalue’s Wideye™ SAFARI™ Land Vehicular Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminal – a complete self-contained satellite terminal offering standard voice (4kbps AMBE+2), optional 3.1 KHz high quality voice/fax, built-in Wi-Fi, high speed Streaming and Standard IP data service for various applications, including internet browsing, email and file transfer functions.

Equipped with one of the smallest Land Vehicular BGAN antennas in the market and weighing only 1.9kg, the Addvalue Wideye™ SAFARI™ is a compact and lightweight solution, perfect for vehicles on-the-move.

• Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro satellite phone – the IsatPhone Pro provides access to all the essential services; satellite telephony, voicemail, text and email messaging and GPS location data. Providing users 8 hours of talk time and up to 100 hours of standby time, the IsatPhone delivers the longest battery life to date, making the phone Sunswift’s optimal solution when driving 3,000kms from coast to coast.


Acquiring satellite communications to gain a unique competitive advantage

By utilising the Addvalue Wideye™ SAFARI™ BGAN terminal, the team had constant access to the Internet in the middle of the desert, where 3G network and Wi-Fi are practically non-existent. At broadband speeds, Sunswift were able to download customised hourly weather data (provided by their sponsor Weatherzone). Data was uploaded and downloaded from a supercomputer (located at the University’s Sydney campus) generated algorithms to determine ideal travelling speeds without flattening their battery pack too early in the day. Being 1 of the very few teams to make use of satellite communications, Sunswift definitely had a competitive edge on the international playing field, giving the team the assurance of being listed on top of the Leader Board.

Allowing fan’s to be part of the experience

The Addvalue Wideye™ SAFARI™ BGAN terminal and IsatPhone Pro phones provided all of their communications needs; voice, video, SMS, Internet, access to a network and emails. This allowed the team to keep their fans around Australia up to date via social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Flikr. As Sunswift IVy sped from Darwin to Adelaide, fans received real-time updates of Sunswift’s progress via the Sunswift Live map, allowing fans to experience what the Sunswift driver sees at various points during the race. Sunswift felt extremely proud to be part of the race, knowing they had the support of thousands of Australians who were watching the race from their computers.

Reliable communications on-the-move

A roof mounted satellite antenna capable of maintaining line-of-sight to satellites meant the teams’ Support Vehicles were able to maintain satellite connectivity even at speeds of 100km/ph. This allowed the team to pull weather data and push real time location data during the entirety of the race.

The team was able to send a scout vehicle ~100km/h ahead of the fleet and using the sat phones, was able to send solar illumination data back to the strategists.

Through satellite communications, Sunswift were able to strategically formulate driving patterns ahead of their competitors using real-time data. This alone gave the team a major boost in confidence.

Sunswift Solar Car Team Says …

“Addcom Contact Solutions were invaluable to the team’s results. Being able to download accurate weather data while on the road meant having a unique advantage over other teams.” Alexandra Boulgakov, Strategist

“Being able to let our fans know how we were going day by day was a great feeling. It felt like they were right there along with us for the journey!” Daniel Friedman, Project Manager

“We couldn’t be more grateful to the team at Addcom Contact Solutions for all their help, always able and willing to help out. I hope we can work with them in the future.” Daniel Friedman, Project Manager


37 teams from 20 countries participated in the World Solar Challenge racing their own custom-built solar powered cars. From Darwin to Adelaide, UNSW’s Sunswift were thrilled to finish in the top 10. This year’s race across the outback was unlike any other race, with brush fires, dust storms, extreme temperature changes making the race extremely difficult for teams to arrive at each checkpoint.

Although difficult to avoid such adverse driving conditions, nothing was going to stop Sunswift IV from crossing the finish line. With satellite communications in place, Sunswift were confident to be part of the leading pack of solar cars and finish the race.

Team Sunswift and Team Aurora (Australia) battled for 6th and 7th places, with Sunswift overtaking Aurora just an hour before crossing the chequered flag in Adelaide.

“Satellite communications definitely played a strategic role for Sunswift”, says Andrew Owens, Marketing Manager at Addcom Contact Solutions.

“We’re proud to be sponsoring and being recognised with an Australian team. With 37 teams competing and only 7 to complete the race, the remaining 30 teams were forced to tow their solar cars. Congratulations to Sunswift for coming 6th place.”