Field Trial — Coachella Valley

Field Trial
Location: Coachella Valley
Date: 01-09 May 2023

Participants: Gary Aitchison, Adam Atkins, Tibor Fekete, Darcy O’Shea

Author: Tibor Fekete 


Vanguard deployment, operation, and real-world environmental testing and data collection in hot and dusty conditions on poorly formed corrugated tracks. 


Our product development team under the leadership of Dr Simon Guest started our journey back in late 2022 turning our Vanguard user requirements into a product and it was time to introduce our US friends to Vanguard and validate some of our user requirements. As an innovative company we like to make sure our design is on point for our first responder community users for our product launch in August 2023. There is no better way to validate a product roadmap then get it into user’s hands early and let them guide our development to meet their needs and expectations. So off to the US we went in early May 2023. 

This gave our Field Trials engineers the opportunity to get in the field, travel overseas, work in remote areas with extreme climatic conditions and obtain some important real-world operational concept testing experience. On this field trial Darcy O’Shea our new field trial engineer was responsible for the Vanguard vehicle installation, operation of equipment, and V&V testing. He did a splendid job seeing he was a new engineer in the company and it was his first trip to the US. He is officially now an old salt of the field trials team. 

California here we come

We arrived in LA picked up the test vehicle which was a Jeep Gladiator and travelled to the Palm Springs region. Wow we didn’t think it was possible to plant so many palm trees in one area. As far as the eye could see, palms everywhere.

Figure 1: Palm trees everywhere
Figure 2: home away from home

The new office for the week

We booked our accommodation before we departed Australia, as we needed a quiet place that could accommodate the team and meet our work requirements, a garage was essential. 

We arrived and as we pulled up to the driveway the looks on our faces were priceless. The question on the foremost of our minds was is it safe to even sleep here? I could just imagine trying to get council approval for a dwelling on this site if this was in Australia and in a region that sees a lot of seismic activity. Well we are here now and we will make the most of it. Fortunately for us there was no seismic activity during our stay.


Time to equip the US ride with Vanguard

As soon as we arrived, we unpacked, familiarised ourselves with the new accommodation and Darcy and I set to work equipping the Jeep with Vanguard. The install was very quick thanks to Ted Reakes doing a fantastic job making sure the Vanguard components were plug and play and installation and commissioning was straight forward. It is always a humbling feeling when you work with a professional team that anticipate and plan for success. It was pure pleasure to watch the install after the Dev & Field Trials team did their months of development and planning so we could be successful during this week.

Figure 3: Darcy testing Vanguard after the installation
Figure 4: Coyotes arrive to inspect Vanguard

Our first night and the locals show up to meet Vanguard

Darcy and I decided we would test Vanguard night time performance before we went out in the field. We were barely in the front yard for 10 minutes when two Coyotes showed up in the middle of suburbia. Darcy took the photo with his phone as I wasn’t quick enough on Vanguard due being fixated on the new visitors. During the day we also saw lots of Road Runners running down the suburban streets. It was a real Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote Acme corporation moment for the team and we were waiting for a Road Runner to push one of those big boulders behind our accommodation at a coyote. Darcy did not sleep well during the trip. Beep Beep.

Field trial day one

The team was ready for our first field trial, so we drove about an hour and arrived at the Bradshaw trail where Gary and I decided to check out where we should go on day one of the Field trial

Figure 5: Gary and Tibor planning the route
Figure 6: Snow-capped peaks in the Desert


  • We were expecting, heat in excess of 35 degrees Celsius to test our hardware, we certainly got that.
  • We were expecting dust, we certainly got more dust than we anticipated.
  • We were expecting poor tracks with lots of corrugation. We certainly got corrugations that exceeded all our expectations. Wow did I say we experienced corrugations.

Day one was a roaring success, we collected some nice video and data that is now available to see on our website. The hardware held up remarkably well with no catastrophic failure during the testing on rough unsealed corrugated roads. We on the other hand didn’t fare so well, bones were aching, kidneys were sore from the corrugations and we were now thirsty. 

Then we noticed that in the distance on top of a mountain peak we were looking at snow. 35-degree heat in the desert and we are looking at snow.


Gary and Darcy having a well earned rest after a hard day in the saddle with me as driver. Well I had a Jeep to drive and I can honestly say it was the perfect vehicle for the conditions we were in. Unfortunately I could travel a little faster than the average HiLux back in Australia and this took a toll on my passengers.

Figure 7: Gary and Darcy recovering after a day in the Jeep saddle
Figure 8: Coffee anyone

The next morning we decide to get up early and test the equipment in – 4 degrees. Only one problem, we dressed for 35 degrees. In every group there is one and seeing I’m from Canberra region I felt at home and a short reprieve from the searing desert heat. The locals thought I lost my marbles but then when they heard the Ozzie accent it all made sense to them. As long as I have a warm coffee life is good.

Field trial day two: back to the desert we go for more testing

Checked all, hardware, tightened all cables, checked cameras for focus and off we went for further testing. Similar conditions to yesterday, dust, heat, and corrugation. Collected more video and data and learned a lot about Vanguard, what works well and what we didn’t like. The information was gold to our development team and the results of our first international field trial was a success. I can also attest that when a rugged PC is certified to MIL SPEC 810 for vibration it is worth its weight in gold. Our hardware worked flawlessly through some of the roughest conditions available. The team did a fantastic job designing the fit out and selecting key hardware. The lessons learnt were significant to our software development team, some of the tests exceeded our expectations and as expected some software needed further work and I look forward to showing the results next time you book a demonstration with us in Australia and we take you for a ride in our Jeep Wrangler Vanguard demonstration vehicle.

Figure 9: Gary and Adam taking in the local scenery
Figure 10: Jeep appears pleased to be off the black top

Gary and Adam taking a well-earned rest as Darcy and I do a check on the Vanguard equipment, needed regular breaks from the poor track conditions. I can say it was a lot of fun driving a Jeep Gladiator in the conditions it was built for.

That’s enough rest. Now team lets go for another drive and let’s try to break Vanguard. 

Darcy doing what Field Trial Engineers love doing. There was no shortage of directions and driving advice from the rear of the vehicle, Gary and Adam made sure the driver was well informed, Lucky I’m married and well trained at selective hearing.

Figure 11: Vanguard collecting 3D spatial data
Figure 12: The team signing off (Adam behind the camera)

As all product field trials do, they must conclude. It was a wonderful experience seeing Vanguard perform in the field and being used like it is designed to be used. Many lessons were learnt that will make Vanguard even better than we could have imagined. We now invite you to book a demonstration and see what Vanguard can do for your team.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to showing you Vanguard in action.

Article by: Tibor and the Field trials Team @ Visionary Machines 

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