Having communications with the world is an important part of sharing the experiences of the Tahina Expedition. We have a number of communications systems on Tahina:
- VHF radios – for short-range voice communications ship to ship
- HF/SSB radio – for long-range voice and very
low-bandwidth data communications
- AIS receiver – Ship-to-ship data communications for showing vessel location and other data
- EPIRB beacon – an emergency system for communicating to satellites our location in the event of an emergency
- satellite communications system – capable of voice, fax,
and data communications)
- long-range WIFI receiver when WIFI is available near shorelines.
When evaluating our data communications systems for off-shore applications, I contacted a friend named Brian Barnett who runs a satellite communications company called SatWest. His company has been providing a wide-range of satellite communications solutions for companies world-wide for over ten years.
The Tahina Expedition, through its partnership with VideoRay, has a small underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV) with a video camera system and a grappling arm. The VideoRay ROV will enable us to check on the health of coral reefs, dive on wrecks, and view a huge variety of marine life (including sharks) from the safety of our boat. Not only that, but the ROV can be operated, with special software, over the Internet. We have planned to allow some lucky students in various classrooms to have the opportunity to drive our ROV during parts of the expedition.
In order to link to the Internet, and provide streaming video for the ROV, we needed a satellite communications system. Marine-capable satellite systems with broad global coverage can be very expensive. The antenna systems have to be very sophisticated in order to insure the antenna stays pointed at the satellites even while the boat is moving on
the water. The usual solution is a complex gyroscopically-stabilized platform.
Thanks to a partnership with Vizada, Tahina has a Thrane & Thrane Fleet 250 system on board which offers high throughput for our broadband connection, along with simultaneous voice & data communications. It’s a lot more cost-effective and easy to manage and it was compatible with the computer systems installed as well. This system was provided as part of a partnership with SatWest and Vizada, and it will provide the essential IP streaming needed for us to broadcast the findings of the ROV.
These partnerships were critical to enabling the Tahina Expedition to have better communications for safety, weather data, voice communications, and to enable the ROV applications. We thank both SatWest and Vizada for their advice and services and look forward to working with them on the ROV, and other applications, during the next
five years of the Tahina Expedition.