Video: UAV Drone Use in Off-Road Racing

For a while, it was becoming a common occurrence to see drones flying around sporting events to capture video footage of the event for use by the athlete, race team, sponsor or promoter. Now, with state and federal lawmakers introducing regulations to restrict the commercial use of and locations available to fly a drone it is becoming a market only available to professional drone companies. We had the privilege of working with one of these companies at the Ultra4 MetalCloak Stampede in April 2016.

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The drones had it easy, they just had to fly. The Ultra4 racers had to climb over rocks and wet conditions.

Image in Flight is an aerial media service which provides aerial mapping and aerial video for customers in different markets including agricultural, construction, advertising, real estate and education. They were at the race track in Rancho Cordova on Friday prior to the race completing a mapping project of the Prairie City SVRA off-road race course. The company brings a variety of drones to complete different services. None of which, are the typical drones you would see the neighbor kids flying around the park by your house.

Luckily the drones where flown on a day the weather cooperated.

Luckily the drones where flown on a day the weather cooperated.

These are professional drones capable of flying autonomously on way points selected using GPS coordinates. The pilot reviewed the area, identified any hazards and areas of concern then outlined the border of the required map using proprietary software licensed from a third party. Once the map borders are established and the software programs the flight pattern into the drone the pilot flies the drone to the required altitude. Then the software controls the camera and captures the required images. The drone flies its course with precision at the desired altitude flying back and forth turning perfectly when reaching the edge of the map aligning itself for the next pass.

Depending on the size of the area to be mapped the drone will take hundreds or thousands pictures of the ground below as it passes. The software then takes the pictures and combines them to render anything from a high-resolution 2D map to a 3D model or even a point cloud. These images provide current detail that the customer cannot get from a satellite image.

Fans watching the process at the track were very interested and it wasn’t long before there were a crowd of people asking the pilot about what we were doing, the mapping process, the different types of drones in use, and how the images were to be used. While the images are not immediately available onsite to share with readers, they are available to share now. We thought it might be interesting for fans who were at the race, who were unable to attend the event or have never been to the Prairie City course to get a chance to look at the finished product. Be sure to check out the recap of the event and any pictures you may have taken from the race.

About the author

Sean Lyons

Sean Lyons grew up watching family racing at the All American Speedway in Roseville, California. His first opportunity behind the wheel was at age 9 with homemade go carts on a ¼-mile dirt oval built by his grandfather. Sean started working for a local magazine as a photographer in the Sacramento area in 2012, and realized that he could combine his love for photography and racing. He now enjoys photographing AMA Pro Motocross, NHRA drag racing, NASCAR, and a variety of off-rroad racing events.
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