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Supersonic Bloodhound car techies in screaming 650mph comms test

HD video at Mach 1+? No biggie, say cool-cat engineers

Engineers from the Bloodhound supersonic car world record attempt have been testing their radio comms gear as plans to stream the 1,000mph (1,610kmph) event live come together.

Live-streaming the car's record-breaking run is no trivial matter. Given that you can’t even maintain a phone call on a London train, trying to maintain communications with a 1,000mph car is fraught with problems.

Using HD video makes it harder – and doing it in the Kalahari desert is nigh on impossible.

And yet the engineers from Bloodhound are well on the way to doing it. The Bloodhound project has just released a video which shows testing from last August, featuring communications between an L-29 jet and a Jaguar F-type driven by Sir Richard Noble. The high point of the tests came when the L-29 flew one way and the car drove in the opposite direction, at a closing speed of 650mph (1,046kmph).

It’s a technically challenging network with VHF (136 – 174Mhz) being used for voice and LTE for data. South African mobile network MTN is building a small 4G network just for Bloodhound in Hakskeenpan in the Kalahari, while comms company Emcom is building the VHF one. The two networks will talk to a mobile comms van which will then stream the event via Freesat to the outside world.

The VHF gives the instant communications you’d want while doing 14 times the UK motorway speed limit. It’s a push-to-talk system with a radio communications button on the control column.

The kit used is a TaitNet Tier 3 digital mobile radio (DMR) network, linked to Bloodhound's command-and-control centre on Hakskeenpan. Tait Communications is a New Zealand based company and their equipment was configured by Emcom for the job.

"Our DMR solution will provide real-time voice and data communications and allow the command centre to not only talk to the driver but monitor his vital statistics, such as heart- and breathing rates, as well as offering the capability to transmit real-time vehicle performance criteria throughout the attempt," explains Emcom Wireless executive director of business development, Sipho Sibanda.

650mph Desert Comms Test For BLOODHOUND Supersonic Car

Noble, OBE Bloodhound project director and former World Land Speed Record-holder (633mph/1,019kmph), says: "Emcom's solution provides us with a no-compromise voice and data solution ideal for our very unusual needs, and ensures robust mobile radio connectivity between all the team in the desert, even those travelling at 1,000mph (1,610kmph)."

All support teams, car and track engineers, fire crews, medical and ambulance crews, police, security and airborne assets – like helicopters and aircraft filming the event – and even the parking marshals will benefit from having coordinated group radio communications without interfering with each other.

"We even have the capability to transmit remote micro weather information from trackside weather stations to the command centre," said Sibanda.

The Taitnet system will communicate with the South African MTN mobile network so that the two-way radios can talk to mobile and vice versa. MTN is providing logistical support, as is Poynting Antennas.

Hakskeenpan, a vast stretch of desert in a remote corner of South Africa's Northern Cape, hasn’t had a communications infrastructure in the past but spectators to the events will have access to the MTN LTE network. It will also be used for telemetry and video on the vehicle.

The Bloodhound SSC team is expected to arrive at Hakskeenpan in August 2015, where it will attempt to break the current World Land Speed Record of 763.035mph (1,227.986kmph) currently held by Bloodhound driver Andy Green.

After that, they will return to the Bloodhound Centre in Bristol, UK, for further engineering on the car. They will then return to South Africa in August 2016, where they will attempt to break the 1,000mph (1,610kmph) barrier. ®


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