A team of injured British servicemen and volunteers have been using BGAN and IsatPhone Pro very effectively during their tough desert preparations to complete the formidable Dakar Rally in South America.
An Explorer 500 has helped them keep their UK headquarters, social media sites and journalists informed about their training in Morocco.
The Race2Recovery team aims to take on the world's toughest off-road race in South America in January and raise money for the Help the Heroes recovery centre. The charity's centre offers support for injured members of British armed forces as long as they need.
Race2Recovery's entry into the Dakar Rally follows a similar Row2Recovery Atlantic crossing which raised around £1 million last year.
Inmarsat has provided Race2Recovery with portable and vehicular BGAN terminals, eight IsatPhone Pro global handheld phones and an unlimited voice and data service for the five drivers and co-drivers training in the remote deserts and mountains of Morocco.
On their first pre-Dakar training, BGAN allowed the team to update its website, photo gallery and Facebook page from the middle of nowhere.
Team co-director Captain Tony Harris, who served with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, is also one of the drivers and a below-the-knee amputee. Like many of the team, which also includes non-wounded members, Tony is a veteran of the recent Afghanistan conflict.
He explained that the Thrane & Thrane Explorer 500 has allowed the team to achieve broadband-like internet speeds wherever they were. The kit is also incredibly simple, lightweight and compact.
“I only needed a 20-minute training session back at the office and I was up and running using the Explorer 500,” he said. “It's so simple to use for updating social media sites with texts and photos and for sending emails.”
The satellite equipment has also allowed them to stay in touch with their mechanical and logistics crew back in the UK, allowing them to be part of vital decisions being made while they were away.
Satellite communications also proved essential during emergencies.
“On day three of the first Morocco trip, one of the vehicles had two punctures. As we each carry only one spare, we had to send one vehicle to find new tyres. The BGAN helped to search for a supplier, while the IsatPhone Pro enabled the different crews to keep in touch,” explained Tony.
Whether it was in the desert or in the mountains, the Inmarsat system was online within three minutes, rarely had to be charged and was discreet and rugged enough to be packed away with minimal fuss during the arduous 2,000 km training journey.
Race2Recovery will be using it again on its next training in Morocco in December, when the co-drivers will also be put through their paces before the Dakar Rally in January.
The 28-strong team then heads off to South America with four Qt Wildcat 500 DKR off-roaders plus support vehicles, hoping to raise more funds for Help the Heroes.
“This will be the first time Dakar has started in the dunes which will be complex for us,” added Tony. “We need to ensure we maintain 'mechnical sympathy' which means we drive the vehicles to get the best out of them, so that we don't need to tire out our engineers with lengthy maintenance at every overnight stop.”