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Tracking Thunder Child world record with the internet of things

When Safehaven Marine began planning an ambitious world record attempt, their sights set on circumnavigating Ireland and Rockall, 8 West Consulting saw a chance to test their maritime rescue technology, as well as new devices that could help improve marine safety.

Those new devices were the HidnSeek and Capturs GPS trackers, communicating over VT’s Sigfox network.

The plan involved setting an entirely new world record. In the boat Thunderchild, the crew would circumnavigate Ireland, including Rockall, which is approximately 500 km off the north-west coast. The route had never been done in a record attempt before, and involved a 1,000km open ocean crossing of the North Atlantic, one of the most notoriously rough seas on the planet. This part of the journey rules out many high-speed boats, but Thunderchild is a 17-metre, wave piercing interceptor that blends speed and strength.

On board, Thunderchild was decked out with technology. In order to provide live tracking throughout the journey, 8 West Consulting brought satellite and IoT devices. These integrated with SafeTrx Open Architecture, which is the underpinnings of an app created by 8 West that allows boaters to file a “sail plan” and alerts designated contacts if the vessel is late arriving back.

The HidnSeek and Capturs both used VT’s Sigfox network to communicate for the majority of their trip, but briefly crossed through the waters of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is covered by UK operators WND and Arqiva.

The devices take advantage of low-power Sigfox connectivity to provide GPS tracking with a long battery life and low annual operating costs.

During the trip Thunderchild encountered some rough conditions, but averaged 32 knots (59km/hr) and reached a top speed of 52 knots (96km/hr). Despite the pitching and high speeds, the Capturs and HidnSeek performed flawlessly, regularly reporting their location without issue.

After a stop in Portrush to refuel, Thunderchild broke from the coast and made for Rockall.

At around 4:30 am, Thunderchild arrived at Rockall, a small and desolate island 500km from Ireland.

After spending some time admiring the sunrise at Rockall, the crew continued on their journey. They arrived back along the coast around 1 p.m., ready for the final leg down the west coast of Ireland. But first, they stopped to refuel in Belmullet.

Full of fuel after their pitstop, the team took a moment out of their journey to pay their respects at Blackrock Lighthouse, where Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 crashed, killing its four crew members.

In the end, Thunderchild completed the 2,069-km trip in 34 hours, one minute and 47 seconds, setting a new world record. Both the HidnSeek and Capturs provided strong, consistent tracking around the coast of Ireland, despite high speeds and rough conditions. Both devices had plenty of battery life left, even after nearly 35 hours of constant movement and tracking.

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