Operators Satellite

Satellites have the power to change the world

By Mike Horn, International explorer, partnering with Speedcast for connectivity during the Dakar Rally 2021.
Credit: Etienne Claret and Antoine Janssen

Satellite connectivity is not just essential to the continuity of businesses and individuals, but to my journey as well. As I travel around the world, taking part in daring exploits, I am constantly seeking to change the way the global community thinks about climate change and the impact it is having on our environment.

For my latest challenge, the Dakar Rally 2021, the aim was to influence people within the motorsports industry to modify the way they participate in races. The end goal is to develop a fully hydrogen-powered car that we will race during the event in two years’ time, to show the automotive sector that it is possible to race in a truly sustainable way. However, to enable true change, it is important I have the connectivity required to keep my followers updated in real-time.

Daring to go faster

My expeditions normally see me traversing extreme climates like the Arctic and K2 Mountain, as I try to steer the conversation towards our changing environment. This, however, was a truly unique adventure which would allow me not only to have an amazing experience, but to be part of something bigger.

My professional racing driving partner, Cyril Despres and I had to travel over 7,000 kilometres at 250 kilometres per hour across sand dunes and the open desert, in between roadblocks and into empty riverbeds. By day five, we were able to get ahead of our competitors and rise up into the top ten racers ranking. As the navigator, I was to give vital instructions to Cyril as we traversed the tough terrain, ensuring we could go as fast as possible and avoid potential dangers, all while collecting as much data as possible for the development of our all-hydrogen race car, as part of the Gen-Z project.

Working with our talented team of experts, our car was transformed into a portable lab with sensors that captured exactly what was happening in the vehicle – from telematics able to record its location to the acceleration and braking speeds of the car. All of this data was then stored until our race was completed. This information would be critical in helping us to create the ultimate hydrogen race vehicle.

Technology aiding the mission

However, the biggest challenge was how we could share our journey with my many followers around the world. Being in a remote environment, there are challenges when it comes to sustaining the reliable, high-quality connectivity needed to share voice, data and location updates. Only satellite connectivity has been able to support my mission, keeping critical communications running and providing the ability to share real-time commentary on my activities.

Working with a technology partner like Speedcast positions me for mission success, as they provide vital communications equipment and services that can weather the extreme environments with me. In my most recent adventure in the Arctic, we were able to provide important live weather updates to weather forecasters, whilst being able to keep in touch with the emergency services for standby support. But more importantly, we were able to send back photos, live data and blogs to highlight exactly how quickly the environment was changing, from the shifting behaviour of whales to the warming sea temperatures.

During this race, I had access to the Iridium Extreme handheld device, provided by Speedcast, which worked via the Iridium Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Its size was perfect: small enough to fit within the confined space of a car and ideal for the connectivity it delivered. Utilizing this device, we could send data back to our ground support team, make voice calls and update our position and status through Speedcast’s FieldVision solution. This enabled my audience to stay up to date with our progress, whilst at the same time, we could provide real-time location and status updates, allowing us to be tracked in the event of any emergencies or hazards.

Satellites are changing the world

Whilst satellite connectivity has long been essential for travellers, it has become pivotal to my goal of alerting people to the reality of what is happening to the world around them. The communications services we have leveraged for my expeditions – remaining reliable through challenging environmental conditions and despite the constant movement during the Dakar Rally race – have played an important part in changing the world to become more sustainable, particularly for the motorsports industry.

As we look ahead, we look forward to competing in the Dakar Rally again next year as we further our ambition to create a fully hydrogen-powered vehicle and show the industry it is not as daunting as they may believe it is to become environmentally friendly. At the same time, satellite will continue to play a huge role in my fight against the effects of climate change.

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