October 7, 2017

The secret weapon: SAT1

‘Is there a secret weapon??!’. Since he learned of the famous concentrators in 2013, my son (9) is heavily intrigued by that question. Well, for Nuna9, the solar car of Nuon Solar Team, the answer is ‘no’. But for the media working in the Delft team (like me, his dad), the answer is: hell yeah. Meet SAT1, a new car of the Nuna convoy, brought in by their awesome mediapartner Stream My Event. What it does? It gives us internet access via satellite in the outback, even while we are driving. In the current world of near-constant wifi, it might sound silly but for a participant driving the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, this is a very big deal.

For those who don’t know it: the BWSC is a competition for cars driving purely on solar energy. It runs from Darwin in the top of Australia to Adelaide, all the way to the south: 3000 km driving on a famous road, the Stuart Highway. The teams drive from 08.00h to 17.00h, stopping every 300 km or so for half an hour, and camping overnight alongside the road in the outback.

That scenario is pure torture for communications officers. Lots of beautiful stories and footage, but NO.CONNECTIVITY. There are a few ways to deal with that, for instance by maximising the use of the very rare hotspots with 4G (which we did in 2015), or use a Inmarsat/BGAN (which we did up to 2013, but which is horribly slow in the outback and useless for video). But now, there is a new kid on the block.

Originating from US Aircraft carriers, our ThinSat300  is able to provide us with a 3 mbps upload and 1 mbps download internet connection. Anywhere in the outback, but that’s not even the really cool bit. It does so even when we are driving. There are other satellite connections that can connect you to the world, but they need a very carefully aligned satellite dish, so you need to be at a fixed location.

The system is still pretty new. It was developed for the US military and used on things like aircraft carriers and Humvees, and came recently to the civilian market. Our ThinSat300 is the only one on this continent. It came to us on a specially prepared car, that can provide 40 A of current to power the antenna. This car needs a huuuuge battery. 🙂

Stream My Event
Our mediapartner Stream My Event organised it as a sponsorship to the team, and also got satellite provider OPTUS to provide us the data (actually, OPTUS even temporarily increased the output power of towards Australia on their geostationary OPTUS D2 to improve our bandwidth), as both partners believe it’s a great showcase of what this technology can do.

Stream My Event will use SAT1  to, obviously, Stream Our Event. They’ve created an Airmax -network over all the convoy cars, reaching about 10 times further than standard WiFi. As a result we can exchange files between vehicles while driving, and access the satellite antenna from any car driving in the convoy.

So we will join you occasionally live on Facebook and with a live programme from the outback at the end of our day. We can upload raw video for media. And we can update you live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in ways in which we never could before. Stay tuned.



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