November 25, 2019

How Satellite Enabled the Agoria Solar Team to Stay Ahead of the Race at the World Solar Challenge

How Satellite Enabled the Agoria Solar Team to Stay Ahead of the Race at the World Solar Challenge

In today’s technology advanced world, connectivity is no longer a luxury – users expect to be able to stay connected and share every moment, wherever they are and whenever they want.

This was particularly the case for the Belgium Agoria Solar Team, who wanted optimum connectivity as they embarked on their journey across the Australian outback, as part of the World Solar Challenge 2019. To bring the race to life, it was vital that its followers were able to engage with the team and watch their progress daily – including their celebratory victory as they reached the finish line.

However, the challenge to deliver connectivity and bandwidth, in remote areas and on the move, is significant – and is one which only satellite was fit to overcome.

Keeping Ahead of the Race

Covering more than 3,000km of the Australian Outback, from Darwin, Northern Territory, to Adelaide, South Australia, the World Solar Challenge is the most well-known solar-powered car race event across the globe. So, it was only natural that the Agoria Solar Team wanted to stay connected all along the route, no matter how remote.

While connectivity is extremely difficult to achieve in the depths of the Australian Outback, it would be essential to enabling the team to engage with its online followers to keep them updated on their progress throughout the race.

In a bid to overcome this hurdle, teams who participated in previous challenges were followed by satellite trucks to enable this access – which proved effective, but incredibly expensive. Some teams resorted in ‘saving’ social media posts and videos for uploading when connectivity became available. This worked, but the beauty of social media and live streaming is that it is offers immediacy and creates a real buzz – which was lost by the time the teams managed to upload their posts.

Ubiquitous connectivity while driving was also essential to the Agoria Solar Team especially for the “brains” car to increase the overall situational awareness and visibility. For the team, every sun ray counts, so real-time information was crucial and would allow them to adjust the course of the race car as needed.

That is why connectivity was vital to the Agoria Solar Team – and with satellite on their side, there were no barriers to what the team could achieve.

A Saviour in Satellite

Due to satellite’s capability to enable connectivity literally anywhere, even in the deepest, most remote areas on earth, at any given time – it was the winning solution for the Agoria Solar Team. 

In 2019, broadcast and, for the first time, satcom-on-the-move (SOTM) capabilities were enabled thanks to ST Engineering iDirect, along with its project partners Av-Comm, Cobham, Intelsat, Network Innovations, Pacific Live Media, STEP Electronics (HILLS Limited), ThinKom, and VRT Sandbox.

ThinKom’s ThinSat300 antenna was used on the Brains car and was provided by STEP Electronics (HILLS Limited) and utilized ST Engineering iDirect’s Newtec MDM9000 modem, which enabled the team to enjoy communications on the move and Internet access while driving. STEP also provided installation and remote support. Teleport facilities were also provided by Av-Comm – a family-run Teleport based in Sydney providing managed services and hosting for Australia/Pacific customers – and satellite capacity was delivered over Intelsat’s Horizons 3e satellite.

The impact of on-the-move connectivity didn’t go unnoticed by the Agoria Solar Team, with this assisting them in getting to the pole position and increasing their situational awareness while driving. With continuous connectivity at their fingertips, the people in the brains car were able to stay at the height of connectivity, allowing them to receive hour-by-hour weather updates. This enabled them to receive information regarding highly anticipated sun exposure and cloudless skies in real-time while en-route, enabling them to recharge the solar-driven batteries of the race car with whom they stayed in constant contact. Most importantly, the ability to adjust the navigation and route planning based on the most up-to-date weather pattern is a significant element – one which enhances the chances to win.

In the moment

Utilizing our Newtec Dialog® platform to enable Network Innovations’ MAVERICK managed service, the Agoria Solar Team was able to access live IP streaming every night, wherever they ended up after each racing day. With the help of Cobham Explorer’s auto-tracking antenna for communications-on-the-pause (COTP) and our MDM3000 series modem, the team were able to live stream video interviews and backhaul action video clips to its thousands of followers – sharing every moment of their journey with their online audience.

As part of the journey, Pacific Live Media also followed 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.

As a result, media coverage of the race was able to be captured using satellite connectivity – taking the race to the global stage. This, coupled with the live streaming capabilities, enabled the glorious moment where the Agoria Solar Team crossed the finish line, taking home the world cup for Belgium, to be captured live and streamed to audiences across the globe.

While the team may have taken home the world cup trophy, satellite connectivity was also triumphant – providing a solution in the outmost rural areas of the world where no other connectivity is possible. Now that is a winning solution!