The New Zealand America’s Cup team crushed the Oracle Team USA in the Cup final – and they did it with the help of a drone.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the team signed up professional kite surfer Nick Bowers as a performance analyst about 2 years ago. Bowers was not only an extreme athlete, but a drone designer – and it was his use of the drone that gave the team a significant edge in designing their craft.
Bowers was working as a video production engineer in Wisconsin, specializing in drone footage, when he was recruited by the team to run their entire video program – including drones. He designed a drone fast enough to keep up with the boat and able to fly right alongside. The footage he obtained allowed Team New Zealand to improve the catamaran’s hydrofoils, displaying their function in a way that no other video could.
Drones have been used before to analyze performance in boat races, but most are unable to keep up with the boat, deal with strong winds, or to fly low enough over the water to get a view of the boat from underneath. Bowers has built a drone that can go from 0-85 kmph (about 0-52 in mph) in a second. It can withstand significant wind. And with a special wide angle lens he can achieve cleam, professional footage.
It isn’t only the drone that is specialized for the purpose. Bowers has developed his flight skills to deal with winds that would ground most pilots and to get the right angles of a boat on the water. He flies less than a meter off of the water, able to stay remarkably close to the boat while avoiding a collision despite the boat’s speed.
Bowers couldn’t film the final because of Bermuda’s drones laws. Instead, he’s headed back to Wisconsin to build more drones.