October 14, 2019

World Solar Challenge on Countdown

The countdown is on to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge! Here at ST Engineering iDirect, we are very proud to be involved once again, sponsoring and supporting the Belgian team in this prestigious event in which 53 teams from 23 countries will race across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. From 13-20 October, the specially created solar-powered cars will make their way across the most remote regions of Australia on their epic journey.

The Long and Winding Road to Adelaide

Once each team leaves Darwin at the start of the 3000 km race, they must travel as far as possible until 5pm in the afternoon, after which they camp in the outback, wherever they end up. The teams need to be fully self-sufficient. Along the route, there will be 9 mandatory checkpoints and it is here where pilots are changed and team managers may update themselves with the latest information on their position in the field. At check points, teams can perform the most basic of maintenance only – checking and maintenance of tyre pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle.

The Agoria Solar Team will be representing Belgium this year and they have a lot to live up to – the Leuven-based team placed third in 2017, so the pressure is on to achieve an even more impressive result this year. The car, which has been developed by 20 engineers, students from the University of Leuven, is fully powered by solar energy and is smaller than its last seven predecessors.

The Challenge is one followed by a global audience of over 25 million, generating industry partnerships across many different sectors including energy, engineering, financial, material sciences and IT sectors.

Staying in Touch

As sponsors, ST Engineering iDirect will pay a critical role in ensuring that followers can engage with the team and watch their progress along the route. Access to connectivity is incredibly challenging out in the Australian bush, but ST Engineering iDirect will be on hand with its partners to keep fans around the globe updated on the progress of the race using satellite technology which allows connectivity literally anywhere – even in the deepest, most remote areas on earth.

For the teams participating in the last Challenge, keeping in touch was tough. Some teams were even followed by satellite trucks. Effective, yes, but incredibly expensive. Another solution was to ‘save’ social media posts and videos to upload when connectivity became available. It works, but the beauty of social media and live streaming is that it is offers immediacy and creates a real buzz. By the time teams managed to upload their posts, the moment was gone.

Satcom-on-the-Move and Broadcast Capabilities

For the Agoria team, connectivity will be further enhanced in 2019 thanks to ST Engineering iDirect, along with project partners AV-Comm, Cobham, Intelsat, Network Innovations, Pacific Live Media, STEP Electronics (HILLS Limited), ThinKom, and VRT Sandbox. In 2019 broadcast and, for the first time, satcom-on-the-move (SOTM) capabilities will be covered. This will be essential for the teams in terms of their overall situational awareness. The impact of Internet on-the-move cannot be underestimated. This knowledge truly assists the team in getting to pole position. With constant connectivity whilst driving, the people in the brains car can connect to get the latest hour-by-hour weather updates including the most current information on highly anticipated sun exposure and cloudless skies while en-route in order to recharge those solar-driven batteries. The ability to adjust the navigation and route planning based on the most up-to-date weather pattern is the element that can enhance the chances to win. Every sun ray counts – and if that means making a run for the sunshine or adjusting while on the track due to the latest information received over the always-on link, access to satellite connectivity can make for a winning result.

So, let’s take you through what we and our partners are doing to bring the solar challenge to you this year:

A ThinKom ThinSat300 antenna that will be used on the ‘brains’ car has been provided by STEP Electronics (HILLS Limited) and will utilize ST Engineering iDirect’s MDM9000 modem, allowing communications on the move and therefore Internet access whilst driving. STEP will also provide installation and remote support.

Teleport facilities will be provided by AV-Comm, a family-run Teleport based in Sydney providing managed services and hosting for Australia/Pacific customers. Satellite capacity will be provided over Intelsat’s Horizons 3e satellite.

Utilising ST Engineering iDirect’s Newtec Dialog® platform to enable Network Innovations’ MAVERICK managed service, teams will be able to access live IP streaming every night, wherever they end up after each racing day, utilizing a Cobham Explorer auto-tracking antenna for communications-on-the-pause (COTP) and an ST Engineering iDirect MDM3000 series modem.

Pacific Live Media (PLM) will follow the event from Darwin to Adelaide utilizing its very compact next generation newsgathering SUV to help film the live event. This fully-connected vehicle automatically sets up the bi-directional IP connectivity, whether the available IP medium is satellite, terrestrial or hybrid.

The beauty of this enhanced communications package means that the event cannot only be enjoyed by fans of the race, but the footage and updates will also be shared with schools and educational institutions. The race puts great emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), encouraging young people to try out subjects that they may perhaps not have considered. An event such as the solar challenge inspires and encourages young people – and this kind of communication, that also allows interaction, brings it to life.

Stay in Touch on Social

You can ensure you are kept updated at all stages of the race by accessing the Agoria Solar Team on social media. Make sure you take a trip to their Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/solarteam.be/) where you will find coverage of their outback adventure with live streaming, where only satellite communication is possible. The team will stream every night to update you on the journey and we’ll also regularly post updates on our own social media channels.

Good luck to the Agoria Solar Team from everyone here at ST Engineering iDirect! We’re looking forward to providing reliable connectivity wherever and whenever it is needed. Satellite is on your side!