Driver station ethernet at competition

Hi All,

My team recently purchased some new LTs for the upcoming seasons. One thing we missed getting on these was having a cat-5 port on the LTs. Now we’re wondering what we can do.

One option was to get a dongle & plug that into the USB-C port. Then, since there’s only one other USB port, connect a hub to that second port and the joysticks go into that hub. Any thoughts on this set up?

During build season, I’m guessing this must be the way to go, as the cat-5 is needed to program the radio, etc.

I’m assuming that we can’t just use wireless to talk to the FMS; but maybe I’m wrong? Or we can, but there would be so much interference as to make it completely nonviable.

Other thoughts, comments welcome.


You need to use Ethernet USB-C ethernet dongles are cheap are work

You are correct on this much: you MUST connect to the field using Ethernet. Wireless won’t fly.

In a perfect world, you’ll buy a different laptop that is The Driver Station Laptop™ sporting inbuilt Ethernet and USB-A ports to minimize failure points. has more best practices on what to look for in hardware and software.

If you must use these laptops, the paper points to using reputable makers for USB-to-Ethernet accessories. While I haven’t used any of these in a competition setting, Wirecutter has a nice guide on USB-C accessories.

We used a USB to Ethernet adapter for all of our matches in 2018 and we haven’t had any issues yet.

I have had good experiences with this:

We used USB dongles for Ethernet for 1 season and decided to switch back. One more point of failure, and in debugging connectivity issues, it was one more suspect/testing point. We wound up switching back to a laptop with built in Ethernet.

As a counter point, we have had nothing but trouble with that one (though it may have been that ours was defective).

I will suggest that, no matter what you do, bring a few backups. It’s cheap compared to the cost of missing a match.

The do make USB3.0 Gigabit adapters with hubs built in (IIRC in USB-C too). Many/most FTAs (or at least most/all of the ones I know) carry one in their bag at events to deal with the situation of a laptop with USB maxed out and the exiting LAN on the laptop not behaving. Something I personally suggest all teams have one of, as a backup plan in the event of such happening and one not being available at the event.

If you’re going to use one full time, buy a spare… just in case it fries or something dumb happens that slices your cable.

I can personally say that if yours was defective, mine was too. It worked fine for a couple uses, but then would only sometimes work, the ethernet would start cutting out, and a number of other problems. I threw mine away in disgust. I then paid a little more, and bought essentially the same thing from Anker and haven’t looked back since.


We had a DS Laptop Ethernet port ‘break’ because the spring the held the ethernet port closed broke with repeated use. We used a USB ethernet to finish the competition season to connect to FMS. All DS laptops we get now we look for an actual solid ethernet port. The ethernet pigtail that was in kit of parts the last several seasons is helpful too.

I’ve not successfully gotten the Radio config tool to work through the ethernet USB dongle. Perhaps it’s something I’m doing wrong, or there’s something wrong with our dongles.

While reducing potential points of failure would likely be the best option, it is not always possible. After all, several ethernet adapters are substantially less expensive than a dedicated DS computer in most cases.

So assuming you move forward with DS device you have now:

As others mentioned, FMS connectivity has to come from the cord.

Don’t skimp on the adapter, its not worth missing half a match just because a good knock killed you ethernet adapter.

Purchase several adapters - Misplaced or faulty adapters are not out of the question.

Have a system in place to make sure at least one if not a couple adapters make it out to the field for each match. It seems silly, but as an FTA I have seen far too many times.