Race for the Prize: Connecting the University of Michigan Solar Car Team

Back in August 2013, we first reported on the exciting exploits of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We recently caught up with Jeffrey Cwagenberg, one of the principal members of the UM Team, who shared how Thuraya’s satellite equipment enabled the team to overcome key communication challenges during the race.    

Since the inaugural race in 1987, the World Solar Challenge has served as the platform to showcase the latest developments in automotive technology and explore the possibilities of solar-powered transport. Over the years, the biennial solar car competition has attracted teams from around the world - of which the University of Michigan Solar Car Team is a perennial contender, being one of the most successful solar car teams in North America.

In the 2013 edition, the 21-member UM Team entered the competition with their newest solar-powered electric vehicle named “Generation”, a marvel in automotive design that runs on the same amount of energy as a hair dryer. Locked in a heated race against some of the best solar car teams in the world, Generation finished in a strong ninth place.

“Generation”, a vehicle that runs on the same amount of energy as a hair dryer

Thuraya is delighted to have supported the UM Team in the race, providing two Thuraya XT handsets and two Thuraya IP terminals as well as sponsoring mobile satellite airtime for their communications needs. Throughout the seven-day competition, the team relied on Thuraya’s extensive satellite network coverage to keep team members connected and to facilitate a variety of purposes - ranging from data transfer and performance analysis to gaining access to weather forecasting and news updates.

Thuraya Spacecom Vehicular Antenna mounted on a UM vehicle

Jeffrey Cwagenberg, Director of Meteorology at the University of Michigan and a member of the UM Team, said, “Satellite connectivity plays a crucial role in enabling us to overcome the severe lack of cellular coverage in the more remote terrains of the Australian Outback. We were amazed by the crisp call quality that the Thuraya XT delivered, as compared to the older generation of satellite equipment. Even while racing across extreme environments and through significant weather conditions, our team members were able to communicate effectively.”

Jeffrey Cwagenberg, Director of Meteorology at the
University of Michigan
and a member of the UM Team

On the road

The superior walk-and-talk capabilities of the Thuraya XT is a vital benefit, while the use of an in-vehicle docking station allows the team to set up a satellite connection with ease.

“Another key feature of the Thuraya XT phones that really stood out was the SAT Alert mode. When traveling through remote environments, the SAT Alert mode helped ensure that we never miss a call, and this feature alone saved us much valuable time during the race,” Cwagenberg explained.

The Thuraya IP further provided high-speed broadband access for the team member to collaborate effectively and address logistical challenges faced during the race. For instance, the US federal government shutdown of 2013 resulted in disruption to many of the weather data sources that were previously used by the UM Team. With the use of the Thuraya IP, they were able to find and access new alternative sources of information via the Internet.

Cwagenberg said: “The Thuraya IP terminals were not only used for weather forecasting. When our car went off the road in a strong wind gust, we were able to download design plans from our servers to design a repair on the spot. Throughout the race, the Thuraya IP also kept our media team in contact with fans and supporters through Facebook, Twitter and Flickr posts.”

“We wouldn't have been able to be as successful as we were without the help of Thuraya. When cellular communications were as scarce as they were in the Outback, it was good to know that Thuraya was there for us!” he concluded.



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  • Rapid deployment. We’re there with you.

    Thuraya GovernmentComms enables secure and reliable two-way communications in real time between HQ command and deployed units — with solutions that enable connectivity and interoperability to a wide range of communication platforms. Thuraya GovernmentComms provides a highly-effective framework to coordinate all units in mission-critical scenarios, from infantry to land-based and air-based reconnaissance, and tactical groups.

    Besides providing voice connectivity, network access, email and file transfer for team welfare, Thuraya GovernmentComms also supports government-approved IP encryption with no service degradation, C4ISR systems, Blue Force tracking, logistics management, and tactical command and control communication.

    To know more about Thuraya's services and solutions for the government and the defence sectors, please email us at government@thuraya.com.


Thuraya makes the news in 2013

As the year winds to a close, we are thrilled to note Thuraya featured in a number of leading global broadcast and print media outlets throughout the year. Our new product launches including the SatSleeve and IP+ generated a great deal of interest from a number of major news outlets around the globe.

We are especially proud to have received coverage in a number of major news outlets such as CNN, BBC Click, Sky News Arabia, Wired, Space News, Via Satellite, the Financial Times, Tech Crunch, Gizmodo, Engadget and Digital Ship, among others.

In case you missed it, here are just some of the highlights, which make the icing on our holiday cake:

Thuraya onscreen

Thuraya in print

           Digital Ship                           Regional Film & Video 

Notable mentions

Financial TimesHow to Spend It
       Financial Times                                    How to Spend It 

How to Spend ItGIZMODO
          How to Spend It                         GIZMODO

 Endgadget.com  Space News
      Endgate                         Space News 



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Thuraya Sponsors Online Media Community, Global Voices

Thuraya is honored to support the work of freelance journalists for the second year running. Having worked with freelance photographer and filmmaker Sebastian Meyer, we are looking forward to another successful collaboration, this time with Global Voices—an online citizen media community focused on amplifying independent voices from under-represented communities.

The sponsorship was announced at the annual Eurovision News Xchange conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on November 15.

We will provide Global Voices with a Thuraya IP+ terminal and a year of free connectivity. This will enable Global Voices correspondents who work in remote communities to access the Internet, email, social media, and VoIP applications.

Global Voices’ Managing Editor, Solana Larsen (above), said, “Having access to the Internet through the Thuraya IP+ will be incredibly empowering to communities that normally have no means of communicating with the world."

Our Head of Media and Broadcast, John Huddle (above) has been observing how ubiquitous Internet access and user-generated content have significantly impacted broadcast journalism.

He said, “Twitter and Facebook have changed how major news agencies report with content generated by users in real time, often trumping agency reportage. Journalists have to ensure they are always connected so they are not only reporting news as it happens, but that they are also the ones breaking it.”

He added, “Thuraya’s sponsorship will provide under-represented communities with constant Internet access via a broadband satellite connection. This will definitely be a game-changer for the journalists that Global Voices supports.”



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Going to Great Lengths in Aid of Children and Wildlife Conservation

You can’t tell from his photo but Christian Ghammachi has been practicing law for over 20 years in various countries. However, recently, he decided to pursue his enduring passion for photography on a full-time basis. In November, Ghammachi embarked on an ambitious motorcycle road trip that will take him across the length of Africa from South Africa to Dubai, braving miles of inhospitable terrains to photograph and volunteer with charities including SOS Children’s Villages and wildlife conservation organizations, throughout his journey.

Christian Ghammachi


Ghammachi explained his motivation for his expedition: “Over the past 20 years, I have been donating my photographs to a number of fundraising purposes, especially those of children’s welfare and wildlife conservation organizations. This time, I will also contribute by documenting their work and providing them with the photographs and video footage for free.”

Ghammachi plans to visit and stay at all SOS Children's Villages in Africa, where family-based care services for abandoned, destitute and orphaned children are provided. In addition, he will also be visiting wildlife conservation organizations, and spend a great part of the remaining journey camping in the wild and staying in local villages.

On a quest to explore and help

Emphasizing that the trip is about a quest for images and to help — rather than to achieve it in record time — Ghammachi estimates that the entire trip will clock some 30,000 kilometers of mileage and may last from six months to a year.

Christian at the outset of his long journey

Supporting Ghammachi on his trip, Thuraya equipped him with a set of the latest satellite equipment, including Thuraya XT, Thuraya IP+ and Thuraya SatSleeve, to help him carry out his photography work with ease and stay connected even in remote locations.

Besides depending on the ‘always on’ mobile broadband access of Thuraya IP+ to facilitate his work in areas where the communications infrastructure is unreliable, the robust and lightweight features of the terminal is an added benefit for Ghammachi because of the demanding nature of the expedition.

He said: "The main challenges I expect to face are undoubtedly the weather conditions and demanding terrains. Traveling solely on a two-wheeled vehicle, I need to ensure that I bring along only the minimum load. The equipment I carry must be able to withstand the tough conditions that I will be operating under. The Thuraya XT is the ideal satellite handset for use in these harsh, unpredictable environments.”

Navigating through unfamiliar geographies

Another key challenge for Ghammachi is the need to maintain voice and data connectivity at all times, to navigate his way through unfamiliar geographies and also cope with unforeseen adversities.

The vast expanse of the African savanna

Rocky outcrops

“There may be potential danger in some of the areas that I will visit, where robbery and kidnapping incidents in Africa are real threats. Knowing that I am in constant contact with emergency services and family and friends gives me peace of mind,” Ghammachi said.

Ghammachi will also be identifying organizations in need that are not served by terrestrial networks, for Thuraya has offered to set up public calling offices supplied with Thuraya’s products.

He added: “I will be pairing my iPhone with the Thuraya SatSleeve in order to easily access data applications and keep connected with the rest of the world via Twitter and Instagram. I look forward to providing regular updates on my journey and raise awareness about my activities!”

Christian Ghammachi’s trip kicked off in South Africa on November 7.

You can follow his travel updates via:

Twitter: @CGhammachi
Instagram: cghammachi
Facebook: facebook.com/twowheelsacross
Website: www.twowheelsacross.com


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To the ball game!

The Thuraya team in Washington DC took a different but highly successful approach to their customer engagement event held at the Nationals Park on Sept 19.

The event was attended by over 50 customers as well as Thuraya Service Partners from 15 companies which included Astrium, TrustComm, GMPCS, Vocality and US 21, among others.

While the event focused on introducing Thuraya products and solutions to customers based on the United States, the latter half of the event treated the customers to the ball game which saw the local Nationals team defeat the Marlins 3-2.

The customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive for the first annual Thuraya US customer event and the team plans to host a similar event each year.

Imagine having Thuraya’s name and branding on the board at the game next year? How awesome is that?



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University of Michigan Solar Car Team: Counting down the days!

Thuraya is supporting the University of Michigan Solar Car Team during the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia. The 21-member team will be entering their 12th car, named “Generation" into the World Solar Challenge in Australia which runs from October 6 to 13. The exhilarating seven-day race starts in Darwin and ends in Adelaide. We’re very excited about the team’s final preparations for the race and caught up with Jeffrey Cwagenberg, Director of Meteorology, University of Michigan Solar Car for a quick chat.

With the race just over two weeks away, we’re in the final stages of preparation for the World Solar Challenge.

Our team has been on the ground preparing and testing in Adelaide, South Australia (the end of the event) for almost a month now. Just this past week, we returned to our home-base after spending almost a week testing the car in the Outback.

During this practice race, we drove the portion of the route in South Australia to experience the conditions that we will expect to see throughout the race. In addition we had practice with all of the tools and communications equipment that we will have access to during the race. With all of this testing on the second half of the route, we like to say that we have developed a home-field advantage.

With regards to our experience with the Thuraya IP and XT's, we were really impressed with the reliability of the Thuraya connection. As our terrestrial cellular connection faded quickly after leaving towns, we were always still able to check the weather or stay in touch with the team back in the states.

Have you followed the UM team’s countdown to race day? If you haven’t please following their adventures on Facebook and Twitter now!  Go Blue!



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SMART solutions for Filipinos at sea

September proved to be a great month for launches where we announced the new version of the Thuraya SatSleeve globally to keen media and customer interest.

In Asia, our regional team worked with SMART Communications in the Philippines to launch the new crew calling service, Marino PhonePal for Filipino seafarers.

The multi-year deal will see SMART partner with Thuraya on network services and hardware for its maritime voice service, which connects thousands of Filipino seafarers to their loved ones.

Marino PhonePal is an expansion of SMART’s current crew calling service, from an existing Asia Pacific footprint now to include major sea lanes in Australia, New Zealand, Indian Ocean, Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Held on September 9, the launch was attended by 350 guests including key Filipino dignitaries, end-users and over 40 members of the press.

Guests also enjoyed a hosted lunch as well as entertainment from top entertainers such as Rhyzza, Regine Velasquez and Ogie Alcasid.

The launch also saw a heartfelt video produced by the SMART team for the launch of its service in the Philippines. We fell that it’s the best video that we’ve seen thus far. What do you think? Check out the video and give us your feedback.

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True Grit: Adrian Hayes Reflects on His K2 Expedition

Globetrotting explorations, an epic 3,120km vertical crossing of the Greenland ice cap, and other challenging expeditions to some of the coldest places on Earth — British explorer Adrian Hayes has done and seen it all in a lifetime of extreme adventure and record-breaking feats.   

In his latest exploit, the UAE-based Briton tested his mettle by joining a six-man international team to scale K2, located at the border between China and Pakistan and one of the toughest peaks in the world to climb. Thuraya and our Service Partner Xtra-Link were honored to have sponsored his trek up the second-highest mountain on Earth, enabling Adrian to make use of the Thuraya IP+ broadband terminal and SatSleeve adaptor to document the journey on his website and social media channels.

“As an adventurer, the mystery and sense of foreboding danger that surround K2 has always been a great draw, and I had been planning and training vigorously for this expedition for more than a year. The satellite equipment provided by Thuraya allowed me to share a powerful story with the rest of the world, especially through spectacular images we were able to capture from the vantage point of the mountains, as well as communicate with those involved in the expedition with much greater ease,” said Adrian, a former British Army Gurkha Officer.

Adrian and his expedition team originally planned to reach the K2 summit over a period of 60 days, but their first summit attempt was repeatedly disrupted by the unpredictable weather and snow conditions. Then, tragedy struck when an avalanche killed two of his fellow climbers — New Zealanders Marty Schmidt and his son Denali — and wiped out all the oxygen supply and equipment at Camp 3, forcing the team to abandon any further summit attempts.

“Although success is never guaranteed for K2, I was still extremely disappointed, distraught even, having put so much time and preparation into the project. The avalanche that killed the Schmidts ruled out any further possibilities or thoughts of a second summit attempt. One tries to analyze the reasons, but K2 was simply, and tragically, not meant to be climbed this year,” Adrian said.

The communications kit utilized by the expedition team, which includes the Thuraya IP+ terminal, provided the only reliable means for Adrian and the other climbers to let their family and loved ones know that they are safe and sound, as well as to convey the unfortunate news of the two Kiwi climbers. “The updates we provided were the same reports that were carried by news agencies around the world,” Adrian added.

Extremely robust and easy to use, Thuraya IP+ and SatSleeve proved invaluable in enabling Adrian and his team to stay in touch with their closed ones as well as update the other climbers about the prevailing weather conditions.

“The satellite equipment we used need to be highly durable and easy to deploy throughout the expedition, especially to overcome difficulties such as extreme weather. The Thuraya IP+ provided us with a highly reliable means of establishing a connection quickly and efficiently, while the Thuraya SatSleeve’s greatest benefit was having all contacts at hand prior to commencing the journey — useful contacts that were required as the expedition went on,” he explained.

While his K2 reflections may have been tinged with sadness and mixed emotions, Adrian remains undaunted and is already setting his sights on his next expedition.

“K2 is steep, technically challenging and dangerous but not insurmountable, and I am not one to give up easily after one failure. Stronger and wiser, I will definitely be back again in 2014 to attempt another climb,” he concluded.

As a sponsor and provider of communications equipment to the expedition team, Thuraya is extremely proud of what Adrian and his team has achieved and we look forward to supporting him on his next expedition.

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Racing across the outback with University of Michigan Solar Car Team

Thuraya is a proud sponsor of satellite airtime for this exciting race

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to build and race a solar powered car and race it?

Well, that is something that the University of Michigan Solar Car Team (UM) is completely familiar with. In fact, the team has been building solar powered electric vehicles since 1990. They have raced in the American Solar Challenge in the US and Canada and have won seven  American Solar Challenges, placing in the top three in the World Solar Challenge, five times.

The 21-member team will be entering their 12th car, named “Generation" into the World Solar Challenge in Australia which runs from October 6 to 13. The exhilarating seven-day race starts in Darwin and ends in Adelaide.  

Built of carbon fiber, lightweight and ultra-aerodynamic, the car runs on the same amount of energy as a hair dryer. Amazing, isn’t it? The 2013 race is also tossing up a new challenge, by pushing toward more realistic vehicles, requiring a larger driver compartment and four wheels.

For this year’s race, the UM team is working with Thuraya, which will be sponsoring mobile satellite airtime for their communications needs. The team will be using Thuraya IP as well as XTs during the race as part of their communications kit. The team chose to work with Thuraya because of its highly reliable network and comprehensive coverage of Australia. Thuraya’s satellite phones are also favored by the team because of their strong sound quality, walk-and-talk features and docking units that facilitate their use in vehicles.

Jeffrey Cwagenberg, Director of Meteorology at University of Michigan Solar Car said, “Communication is key to being successful during the race because cellular networks are non-existent for much of the route. In 2011, the team encountered brush fires that closed the road. Because of a variety of reasons, including a severe lack of cellular coverage in the outback, the team back in the States knew of the closure, but the team on the ground was unaware for a significant amount of time. Vehicles in our caravan can be upwards of 50km away from each other. Even high powered mobile radios can’t be relied on as much as a good satellite connection.” 

Mobile handsets such as the Thuraya XT allow the team to communicate with each other and their caravan to provide critical route information, road hazards and weather updates. “Communications also means keeping out team safe. We take every precaution we can to ensure the safety of everyone. While we have some of the best safety equipment with us in the outback, being able to summon for assistance is critical.” He added.

Meanwhile, Thuraya’s IP terminals are used to collaborate with team members across the outback and around the world. It helps perform data analysis in real-time to develop the most effective strategy. Using the IP terminals also helps the team stay on top of the most recent changes in weather, road closures, and other hazards.

Posted on August 6, 2013

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