A Camera Drone Chasing Stock Cars Is the Next Stage of Race Broadcasts
Formula 1, are you seeing this?
One of the big problems with Formula 1's new cockpit protection halo—other than the fact that it looks terrible—is that it blocks the view of the traditional cockpit camera. Racing is already tricky enough to broadcast in a cohesive manner, and onboard views are the best method we currently have to bring viewers along for the ride. IndyCar has its Visor Cam, so F1, consider this video game view of junky stock cars racing around a dirt track as Exhibit A in the argument for camera drones.
Drones are already used by several series like the World Rally Championship to provide a bird's eye view of the proceedings, and obviously racing drones are nothing new, but the idea of combining the two into an unmanned aerial chase vehicle has yet to be attempted in a major professional race. Safety is a big concern, as a falling drone could cause a crash or injure spectators on the ground depending on where it landed.
But such trivial matters don't apply when you're talking about a rural dirt track and a Saturday night race with bunch of old, beat-up stock cars. YouTuber Skinlab FPV flies a custom-built drone with a Torc frame and Cobra motors, and he documented the competition by following the cars around the oval at speed. The result is a crazy third-person, video-game-esque perspective that gives the viewer a great sense of both speed and position.
Skinlab notes in the comments that his rig has a top speed of about 80 mph, and that he's able to go even faster by tucking into the slipstream created by the cars. As drone technology continues to improve, it's not hard to imagine a series of camera rigs floating above the action in a constant stream, always ready to lock on to a specific car at a moment's notice. Of course, F1 could just always lose the halo.