Frederik and Ernest’s Europe – Middle East – Africa roadtrip

Frederik and Ernest Lotter from Blue Horizon Embedded Systems in South Africa are driving from the UK to South Africa via Russia and the Middle East, taking in seventeen countries on their way.

They are making the journey in a Land Rover Defender which is fitted with a Raspberry Pi-based distributed light control system. The Raspberry Pi, and their lighting rig design, will be put to the test over 22000km of harsh conditions and rough terrain.

The Lotter brothers are experienced electronic engineers and are offering to meet up with groups of potential Raspberry Pi or ARM enthusiasts along the way. There may even be a Pi-themed reward available if you can find them using the live GPS tracking system they have installed.

You can track them live online, and if you want them to come and talk to your school, business or another group about Raspberry Pi and ARM processors while they’re in your country, they’re inviting you to email them – please get in touch as soon as possible if you’d like them to visit. Watch the video to learn more, and to find out what their route looks like. Thanks Fred and Ernest; we’re looking forward to tracking your progress!


Greg avatar

I wish there would be a stop in Vienna, Austria =)

Homer Hazel avatar


This is a tremendous idea. I like the journey you are taking and the Raspberry Pi themed vehicle. I notice you have 3 Pi’s driving your lights. I suspect you have spares because you are talking about a Raspberry Pi reward for finding you. But, does your design allow for driving more than 2 lights should one of your in service Raspberry Pi’s break?

Fred & Ern avatar

Hi Homer. Thank you for the interest! Two of the 3 Pi’s control a dedicated set of relays each while the 3rd Pi monitor the switches. The system can recover from network and power interruptions, but if a Pi board would actually damage, we would have to replace it. If one of the relay controllers Pi’s would go, the other one would still work (so some of the lights will be lost). If the switch controller stops working, it would still be possible to control lights via a laptop or smartphone.

We are taking very limit supplies on the journey, so the rewards will be vouchers or similar.

Jim Manley avatar

Well, if they cross East of 125 degrees West longitude, we’ll start looking for them … and bringing lots of gas and lunch because they will have made a HUGE wrong turn to the left somewhere in Russia! :D

Fred & Ern avatar

Hi Jim. It is good to know we have a rescue party on standby. The Defender uses diesel – just for in case ;-)

Erdogan avatar

Which Time are you in TURKEY.

I see your car in England in this time (Friyday) :)

Im waiting to Turkey./ Istanbul.

Fred & Ern avatar

Hi Erdogan,

We will depart here in 4-6 weeks. I expect to reach Turkey about 1 month after departure. If you can, leave us an email or join the facebook group we can look out for you.

Ben avatar

Would you be willing to stop by at a school in Tunbridge Wells, Kent? No idea where it is on your route, sorry!

Fred & Ern avatar

Hi Ben,

Yes that would not be a problem at all. In fact, it would be on the way.

Can you give us an email and we can discuss details?

AndrewS avatar

Ermm, I have to confess I don’t quite get it? Is it a case of “how deliberately over-complicated can we make a system?” ;-)

According to the live-tracker, you’re currently just around the corner from me!

Fred & Ern avatar

Our departure date is in 4-6 weeks time. The system also acts as a demonstration of the Raspberry Pi’s in action, so we can easily demo it in the field at schools in the middle of nowhere without having to setup anything :-)

AndrewS avatar

Maybe you could program in a “disco mode” or something (flashing lights on and off at random)? That way at least it’d have some functionality that you couldn’t do with a regular hard-wired switch.
(As long as it wouldn’t put extra ‘stress’ on the bulbs of course!)

Sven avatar

Yeah, it is a really overcomplicated way of solving the lighting issue. I would have chosen to control the relays with the switches directly.
But at the same time I’m a little curious to see if the Raspberry Pi:s will survive the trip? ;-)

Fred & Ern avatar

We are equally curious and a little stressed :-D

Random guy avatar

Nice road trip. I will have to take a look at your setup and your road trip at a later time.

I went through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal, and back, with a Toyota LandCruiser ;)
I also had extra batteries and solar panels on our rooftent etc.

It’s a nice experiment and I also like to play around with electronics, but when it comes to travelling I must say this is way overcomplicated haha. I just had a switch in the back and also behind my chair to switch on the back light at two points. Just 3 wires and it’s done.
But hey, enough negativity, let’s see how it will hold on the bad roads :)

For tracking I used the Spot ( and integrated it into our website using there XML interface. I was not familier with skytag. Does it use satalite?

Is there a general site to view about the exact route and how long it is etc?

Good luck with the trip :)

Fred & Ern avatar

Thank you for the comment. I am not going to try and defend the complexity ;-) but we are actually quote confident that it will last. We have enough spares and tools to repair minor problems.

Skytag is GPS based with roaming SIM for comms.

Hardware_man avatar

By having the Pi between the switches and the lights, they can make changes to the system based on road worrier experience during the trip without ever having to plug in a soldering iron. I had to replace the lighting control module in my town car, which cost more than 10 times the price of a Pi board ;.)


David Hunt avatar

I think this is great. Sure, there are easier ways of doing this, but where’s the fun in that! And it’ll be a great test for the resilience of the Raspberry Pi. I’d suspect you’d get failures in the wiring long before the Pi fails! :)

Barry Doyle avatar

That’s pretty cool :) I’m South African and I’m on Holiday in England until 19 June :D

Szymon avatar

Hi Guys,
are you going to visit Krakow? If yes we would be happy to interview you. If yes please let us know when and how we could get in touch.
We already have been writing about the Pi and have a Pi as a desktop computer in our office. It saved us money anb does the job well enough.

liz avatar

Hi Szymon

It’s best to email the guys; they’re more likely to pick that up than they will a message left in this comments section.

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