As the sun set in Adelaide, Australia, on October 12, the Punch Powertrain Solar Team celebrated its well-deserved third place in the Challenger Class of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
Over five days, the carefully crafted Belgian solar car made its way across 3,021 kilometres of Australian outback, negotiating traffic lights and road trains, and enduring challenging temperatures and wind gusts, while successfully harnessing solar power to maintain an average speed of 76.2 km/h throughout the race.
From Camels to Connectivity
The single track between Darwin and Adelaide was once only crossed by camels – hardly the audience the solar race competitors were after. However, thanks to a satellite-based solution powered by Newtec and its project partners Network Innovations, VRT Sandbox and Pacific Live Media, this year’s challenge took on a whole new dimension.
For the first time, the Punch Powertrain Solar Team was able to stream live video via satellite, providing updates on their progress to their family, friends and followers back home. Through regular daily live posts, the team could share in real-time their adventure with fans on the other side of the world. The daily updates became hugely popular as the race went on, with the team managing to grow its audience at the same time.
Without satellite, other ways to connect to the Internet were extremely limited. The teams ended each day either in the middle of nowhere with no terrestrial connection to be found for 100km or, at best, at service stations, with some of these giving access to 3G or 4G. The main problem with relying on these “servos” for connectivity was that multiple teams camped in each at the same time, placing huge demands on the infrastructure, rendering them overloaded and unreliable.
Some of the solar teams were followed by large satellite trucks which provided them with a connection at any stage. While this method worked, it was very expensive due to the vast levels of physical equipment required and the need for a team of technically skilled operators to set up links every day.
Alternatively, posts for social media could be created and saved to upload when connecting at a service station, but this lacks the ‘wow’ factor that live video streaming via satellite provides and the information being conveyed is already old news by the time it is uploaded.
IP Satellite for the Win
The power of IP satellite allowed the Punch Powertrain Solar Team to stream updates to the world stage in a way that had not been possible previously.
With the provided solution, any IP connectivity medium, in this case cellular and satellite, could be bonded. The resulting available aggregated bandwidth was used for all IP applications the Solar Team required. When the team camped near cities such as Darwin or Alice Springs, 4G coverage was available. LiveU paired with Switcher Studio provided the ultimate portable live video solution. The team was able to integrate the Switcher Pro software with LiveU and run LiveU over the aggregated available IP bandwidth to enable the live broadcast. The combination of portable, easy to use production with Switcher Studio, bandwidth-aware encoding and the live ecosystem of LiveU provided the production team an outstanding experience.
For the remainder of the race, when no 4G coverage was available, the same compact, easy to deploy and operate equipment allowed transmission over the Newtec Dialog VSAT platform, a crucial element of the Network Innovations managed service “MAVERICK”. A single person acted as driver and operator of the connected car, securing availability anywhere, anytime.
What we have seen in Australia in this year’s solar car challenge is that satellite can cross physical boundaries in ways that no other technology can. By using Facebook as a medium, this impressive feat of engineering has been revealed to the world in an exciting and engaging way, bringing science and geography to a whole new group of people on a global level.
Satellite provided a unique window, not only in terms of content – after all, solar car challenges are not every day events – but also in regard to the location, with the transmission taking place from some of the most remote places on earth.
It’s not too late to see how the Punch Power Train completed the race in third place – see the Facebook page to catch up on the events from the challenge: https://www.facebook.com/solarteam.be
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