David Savage, Founder and Chairman of Excelerate Group, is on a mission to change the ongoing perception that VSAT solutions for yachts are always expensive and poor quality. As a platform to educate the industry, ExcelerateMarine recently purchased a Sunseeker 94 Motor Yacht – known as Excelerate Z.
The idea is that whilst Z can’t be turned into a new yacht, the company can upgrade her technology, Navigation, AV & Entertainment systems, Safety & Security, IT and Communications & Connectivity in such a way that she will stand shoulder to shoulder with any superyacht of the modern era. What’s more, it was thought her internet connectivity would exceed the performance of many yachts costing twenty times more, delivering blisteringly quick satellite-broadband on its KU & KA band networks. Now that the company is underway with what will be a continual technology refresh, we asked Savage to talk us through how he has been refitting the vessel.
Enhancing the connectivity
The starting point was to get the Satellite Broadband, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity on-board MY Excelerate Z up to a level where it fairly represents the services we are promoting. To do this, we installed KU and KA band satellite antennas to generate broadband connectivity capable in its current guise of speeds of 30Mb down X 6Mb up. For different clients, this would generally be scaled down or up depending on the yacht’s requirements and budget. The above is complimented by dual 4G capability, because in most cases we recommend having both VSAT and 4G. Of course, we acknowledge that sometimes a captain and owner may not see the benefit in the higher-resilience of VSAT or its predictable cost and performance characteristics, for example in cases where the yacht is only cruising where there is great 4G available. In those cases 4G may well be adequate although not best practice.
Alongside the internet connectivity upgrade, we have installed a new 80CM HD TV antenna with the full SKY HD package. The functionality of this has already impressed captains who have been on-board; in particular, they have been pleasantly surprised to see the UK terrestrial BBC and ITV channels working perfectly from our yacht in the Med, generally claiming that they couldn’t get it where they lived using much larger antennas.
Improving the interface
The next thing on our list is the installation of our patent-pending DDMI (Digital Dashboard Management Interface). This was invented for our Government and Emergency Services customers when it became obvious that we had begun to supply and integrate complex data, video, voice, Internet via satellite and 4G solutions which normal human beings and non-IT experts (such as Police Officers, Fire Officers and Paramedics) were finding too complicated to use. We can’t deliver on our promise of “making a captain’s day easier, safer and less stressful whilst making an owners day better and less expensive” unless we deliver the ability to make complicated solutions easy to use, or in some cases automate them. That is why our DDMI Version 1 Yacht Management Solution is going to be a game changer, with even more powerful versions to be introduced further down the line via an online upgrade process.
What can DDMI Version 1 achieve when integrated with a VSAT and 4G system?
The Multi WAN router allows the connection of a KU band antenna and service (one or more), a KA band antenna and service (one or more), 2 x 3G/4G cellular connections, marina Wi-Fi or a marina hardwired internet feed (such as a fibre link). The router then allows all of these options to act as a single internet connection, instantly switching from one to another depending on availability and service along with customer preference. This significantly increases uptime on board.
When this is used with Excelerate‘s DDMI Yacht Connectivity Manager app (available on various devices including tablets, PC’s or phones), Captains can instantly see which connection is currently being used and can easily enable or disable connections just by clicking on them. The direction that a satellite antenna is pointing and tracking against the heading of the yacht is also shown, making it instantly obvious if a line of sight problem (mast shadow problem for instance) is the reason for a loss of connectivity. The users within the network can also be divided into groups (i.e. Owner, Guest and Crew) and bandwidth allocation can be adjusted between the individual groups in real time. Groups can be completely disabled if required.
When combined with Excelerate’s Multi WAN router, DDMI can also allow vessels to bond connections together, increasing available internet speeds. However, this is subject to approval and compatibility.
Navigation & AV the Excelerate way
What we want to do next is to upgrade the 11-year-old navigation and AV systems. We are going to take our time on this to get it right, as we want to showcase the company’s experience and expertise in its core global government markets. We will also be introducing new resilient and merged voice communications capability. The yacht’s radios will be upgraded, adding our ‘Excelerate magic’ by introducing the ability for all voice devices (including UHF, VHF, Mobile Phones and VoIP phones) to talk to each other. This will apply not just on the yacht but also off it, and on other assets such as tenders, chase boats, aircraft, cars and villas, and will be irrespective of coverage challenges.
Another area in which Excelerate has significant expertise is video streaming from sea borne, vehicle borne, airborne and body worn camera solutions, and we are also really looking forward to introducing these onto MY Excelerate Z as we develop the yacht further.
The ongoing upgrade
So there we have it: how to turn a Sunseeker 94 Motor Yacht into a worthy example for any superyacht of the modern era. But don’t just take Excelerate’s word for it… Potential Excelerate customers are invited to visit the yacht and test it out for themselves in the many ports it plans to visit around the Med. For the Winter she will be berthed in the Old Port of Cannes.