A New Perspective to Advance Sailing
Published on February 3rd, 2015
by William Granruth and Alex Pugliese, Osprey Imaging
Game-time footage has long given sporting teams an edge when preparing for contests and improving technique. Sailing is a sport in which drones can redefine the methods by which crews advance skills and boat performance.
Defined as any remote controlled aircraft, drones were previously accessible only to military and scientific organizations. Concerns over safety and inexperienced pilots are fueling a debate over the introduction of drones into national airspace.
Regardless of recent controversy surrounding these small battery powered aircraft, their cameras can provide transformational perspectives to the sailing world. Experienced pilots operate drones within close range of sailboats at speeds up to 30 knots while capturing a previously impossible viewpoint.
Drones add significant value in racing applications, providing an intimate and revealing view for sailors. Teams can analyze starts, crew positioning and reaction, mark roundings, sail trim, tacking and boat handling from an angle that shows crew, sail, and boat position. The elevated vantage points are near-range, which is optimal to observe both fine detail of crew operations, while removed enough to observe the course and other boats.
Reviewing high definition video recorded by drone allows crews to see their actions precipitate within the larger context of a race. Hull speed, wind direction, and GPS coordinates can be overlaid onto video, enabling precise analysis of all racing parameters. Video is shot up to 100 frames per second – if additional detail is required, up to 6,000 still images can be extracted from one minute of video.
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Editor’s note: Will this be the next aspect of competition that needs review? While on-the-water coaches are typically kept at a distance from the course to minimize their impact on competition, will coaches now be flying drones over the fleet to re-gain perspective? Already, the current leader of the Volvo Ocean Race is using a drone during the racing (see video).