Watch the World’s Fastest Camera Drone Chase an F1 Car at 200 MPH

Building a drone that's quick enough is only the first challenge.

From package delivery to surveillance, drones have revolutionized how various industries perform—but perhaps none more than TV broadcasting. In many sports viewers are now treated to ridiculous camera angles thanks to zippy camera drones, but like most other equipment, they have their limitations. In Formula 1, those limitations are speed and stability. Until now.

Red Bull and the nutty folks of Dutch Drone Gods recently came together to create the world’s fastest camera drone, one capable of keeping up with—if not beating—a modern-day F1 car. This challenge required developing a drone that’s not just fast and agile, but also has enough battery capacity to allow high-speed flying for laps at a time. Oh, and it’s also gotta record high-quality video, of course.

Drone pilot Ralph Hogenbirk and his crew first met up with the Red Bull squad at a drag strip, where their first drone prototype would race a decommissioned F1 car driven by David Coulthard. As it was to be expected, the drone beat the F1 car—not by much—but as Coulthard explained, straight-line speed isn’t really what F1 cars are really good at. The real challenge was to build a drone that could follow an F1 car around a circuit.

The drone wizards went back to the drawing board and built a second prototype that could deliver faster speeds but also longer running time. Next, they hit up Silverstone along with Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson to put it to the test. There are several really cool scenes of how the drone is engineered and tested, as well as a funny moment where Lawson is holding the drone and asks if you just “chuck it to start it.”

A couple of tests see the drone hit 200 mph down the back straight and get pretty close to Lawson, though it suffers from poor stability and its video connection to the pilot cuts in and out. As a result, Hogenbirk pays Red Bull Racing HQ a visit and both parties get to work on a Red Bull-fied drone that’s lighter, more powerful, more agile, and even has a better camera. In a nutshell, Hogenbirk started out with the Mercedes of drones, but then he got himself a Red Bull. Get it? Anyway.

Red Bull

Following an entire overhaul of the drone, the crew went back to Silverstone for the final test, but this time they’d have to race Max Verstappen behind the wheel of his new RB20. Typical British weather made things a wee bit less exciting as neither the car nor the drone could get up to full speed, but the footage taken was darn impressive.

The sheer speed of the drone is mind-blowing and the skills necessary to maneuver it—and make sure it doesn’t crash into one of Silverstone’s many bridges—is equally so. It’s safe to say that even the three-time F1 champ was impressed.

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