Saturday, 6 February 2010

America's Cup: Flying high technology

Producing live TV images from America’s Cup race courses is never easy, but this 33rd America’s Cup presents a whole new set of challenges for the official broadcaster TWI

Image © Consorcio Valencia.

by America's Cup media

With the two giant multihulls USA and Alinghi 5 expected to reach speeds of over 30 knots, the outer limit of the race course could be 40 miles offshore, and the possibility of lateral separation of up to 20 miles, then a corresponding step up in the level of technology is required in order to beam the live images back from the race course to the huge global audience.

“Racing further offshore, worst case up to 40 miles, is the big challenge over last time.” Explains Kevin Orwin, the Technical Director on site in Valencia,
“Technically it is very easy to get the pictures back from what is the horizon that we can see, but once we have passed over the horizon we get into a number of technical issues, including how we communicate with our crews so far out.”

“So instead of beaming the signal directly from the helicopters to the shore, which is what we did last time, this time we will have our own fixed wing aircraft, optimally flying above 25,000 feet. For this event we are flying at 27,000 feet.” Explains Orwin, “ The aircraft is a specific plane called Skylink which has been adapted for TV use and has transmit and receive antennas built into the wings, so they are active and are able to pick up the signals and repeat them back to ground.”

When the boats spread out the only way to is to use the fixed wing aircraft to repeat all the signals back to land.

There are microphones on the competing yachts to pick up all the effects. These audio signals are relayed to the helicopters. The camera images and the audio is then transmitted back to the station on top of the Foredeck club.

“It has been quite a challenge in the time frame to get to where we are.”

Diagram showing how the technology to transmit the racing to the public will work. Image © Consorcio Valencia.

There are two fixed cameras on each boat with recorders and the footage will taken off once the boats are finished for use in the highlights packages.

SIS TV are doing all the links for TWI have used the Skylink before for covering the likes of marathons, world rally championships, Formula 1.

Skylink takes the broadcast communication and repeats them to the helicopters and camera boats and so they have the production talk-back and can hear everything that is going on.

As well as the helicopter cameras, there are cameras on chase boat, a RIB and also on the committee boat. There are five cameras on the course, including those in the two helicopters, complemented by two panoramic ‘beauty’ cameras up on the Foredeck club.

One of the big logistical challenges is of course the flying time and the distance out to sea. And so a third helicopter is on standby to leapfrog the other. There is a complete extra rig on the third helicopter.

The camera team are among the best sailing specialists in the world, all with comprehensive America’s Cup and round the world race experience.

Meantime the airspace around the huge race arena is restricted.

America's Cup

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