TETRA  |   Narrowband  |   Broadband  |   Satellite  |  2018-06-21

Volvo Ocean Race as a Test Bed for Next Generation Critical Communication Technologies

Source: The Critical Communications Review | Gert Jan Wolf editor

Since 1973, the Volvo Ocean Race has provided the ultimate test of a team and a human adventure like no other. It is also a fantastic test ground to test the latest critical communication technologies.

As you can imagine from the media footage that was published over the last few months, the sailing ships that are sailing in the Volvo Ocean race are equipped with sophisticated communication systems. Allowing tracking of the fleet's position throughout the offshore legs, as well as instant communication with the crews through both video and audio channels. 

Offshore Communications

Data such as audio, pictures and video are converted by interfacing with a smart box called a BDU (Below Deck Unit), which is then converted into radio waves by the antenna inside the dome. These radio waves are transmitted over more than 36,000 km out into space to Inmarsat's BGAN Satellite network. The satellite bounces the data from one side of the earth to another, and onto a ground station, which then connects to the Volvo Ocean Race HQ in Alicante. The media team then use the world wide web to transmit the data to your communication device.

For the 13th edition of the race, beside satellite communication solutions, Cobham Satcom also supplied a wide range of safety equipment. Each boat is extensively equipped with: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), Search and Rescue Transponders (SART), and hand held VHF radios along with aviation frequency emergency radios.

Onshore Communications

Schermafbeelding 2018-06-21 om 13.27.52Although it is important to understand what is happening on board of the sailing boats, it is also important to make sure communications on shore are efficient and reliable. When the town of Newport, Rhode Island hosted the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race in May (the only North American stopover out of 12 cities on six continents during this around-the-world sailing event) over 100,000 tourists and sailing enthusiasts descended onto Newport’s Race Village in Fort Adams State Park to witness one of the world’s toughest sailings competitions. FirstNet outfitted area first responders with over 30 FirstNet devices such as the Sonim XP7 for Fire, police, emergency management and EMS were connected to FirstNet’s Core with priority and preemption to enhance communications and coordinate response efforts.

At the other side of the ocean, the city of The Hague will host the arrival of the sailing boats in the final leg of the race on the 30th June. The finish of the race in The Hague will be coordinated with 4G Push to Talk robust and waterproof handset radios from TeloSystems ensuring reliable communication up to 30 km off the Dutch coast.

Together with the TeloSystems monitoring system web application tool for location display, provided by R&S Rentals, the management will be able to create dynamic groups in order to support flawless communications. In addition to the radios that are used during the coordination of the event, the Duch Red Cross and Public Safety officials will be using their own ways of communications, whereas the police, ambulance- and fire services will communicate via the Nationwide C2000 TETRA system to enable reliable and secure voice communications.

Picture: Courtesey of Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race