Dutch Drone Gods capture FPV of a full F1 lap with Verstappen

Harry Luke
Harry Luke
7 Min Read

In an exceptional feat of engineering, Dutch Drone Gods have crafted a cutting-edge drone that has successfully captured uninterrupted first-person-view (FPV) footage of a full lap with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.

This groundbreaking achievement, forged in collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, marks a significant milestone in drone technology and its potential application in motorsports broadcasting.

Watch the video here, and then learn about details of the development of the drone from the pilot behind the drone’s flight, Ralph Hogenbirk, also known as “Shaggy FPV,” below:

“They [Red Bull] approached us with the project one year ago, and then, a few months ago, we had the final drone in its current form, along with a finalized design for it as well,” Hogenbirk said. “We began with an idea inspired by previous projects, such as bullet or rocket-shaped drones that one or two people had built before, like the 11370, which reached speeds exceeding 350 km/h (217mph), and one even faster. But these drones had limitations: they couldn’t turn, couldn’t sustain flight for more than two brief high-speed runs of a few hundred meters, and they didn’t have anything to film with. These constraints were the unknowns at the outset of our design process.

“Therefore, we had to base the initial design on what was done before, but then really develop a different concept that could overcome those limitations. That’s how we initiated the process, and started prototyping, testing, and changing the prototype accordingly.

“This propulsion system differs from normal drones, like cinematic DJI drones, in that they are significantly more powerful and responsive. The technology is quite similar to what we typically use in FPV (First-Person View) racing drones, which are also known for their high power and responsiveness.

“However, we took it a step further by incorporating a more powerful motor, a very specific combination of the RPM configuration, the propeller size and shape, and the battery. This allowed us to achieve a perfect balance between getting a good top speed and still being efficient, without overloading the electronics or battery. Additionally, the prototype retained the necessary aerodynamic efficiency to reach the speed that we needed and last for the full lap.

“Shaggy FPV” Ralph Hogenbirk with Max Verstappen. Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

While the drone appears to be “racing” Red Bull’s car, Hogenbirk explains that the project was just focused on getting unique footage of the F1 car at speed.

“The main objective of this project was to get the best shot of an F1 car that has ever been recorded: following that F1 car, staying behind it — not overtaking or racing it, but obtaining the high-quality footage of the car going around the whole track while still staying close to the car. All drone technology was aiming at getting that one amazing shot.

Hogenbirk hopes technology like his drone will lead to advancements in the way motorsports events are broadcast and experienced by viewers.

“I think this technology could have an impact on how motorsport events are broadcast,” he said. “Not only can we keep up with faster vehicles, but we can also follow them for much longer, like an entire lap. You can also imagine a rally stage where we can track a car over a very long stretch, staying close to it, and keeping up with it the whole time.

There are a lot of possibilities for this new technology, as it offers a new perspective on any motorsport events you’re filming. While you have onboard videos from cars that show you what the driver sees and helicopter shots from very far away and zoomed in, this technology falls somewhere in between. You can actually follow the car from above while remaining really close to the action. You can see and experience speed almost as if through a third-person gaming perspective. I believe that could add a lot to motorsport broadcasts.”

Hogenbirk notes that motorsports require specific qualities from camera drones that go well beyond most other sports

“To capture these motorsport events, the drone needs to do more than just keep up with the speed and complete a full lap. It also requires a camera that’s capable of capturing the action in the right, stabilized way, and the drone itself must fly effectively too,” he noted. “You need to be able to pilot the drone in a way that you can keep up with the car’s maneuverability as well, especially considering the G forces going side to side.

“For example, these F1 cars pull around five Gs in corners and during braking. Therefore, the drone must possess a combination of speed, top speed, endurance, and agility to keep pace with the car in each of those situations.”

Like with most EVs, battery technology is the most limiting factor in today’s drones.

“The most limiting aspect, technology-wise, remains the batteries,” Hogenbirk said. “Specifically with this drone, we place significant demands on the batteries. They have to be quite big, heavy and high-quality to deliver the power when needed, such as during full-speed stretches where the drone reaches speeds exceeding 300 km/h (186mph) for several seconds on straightaways, then quickly decelerates and recovers to deliver power again on the next straightaway.

“Currently, there is no battery capable of delivering such power while also offering extensive endurance. It’s a case of ‘either-or’.”

Story originally appeared on Racer

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Harry Luke is a Professor in University of Galway. Harry's journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him.