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Live From Daytona 500: Fox Sports Headlines 20th Consecutive Year With FPV Racing Drone, 80-Ft. Strada Crane


Live From Daytona 500: Fox Sports Headlines 20th Consecutive Year With FPV Racing Drone, 80-Ft. Strada Crane The broadcaster will have help from offsite in Charlotte and Los Angeles By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 6:44 pm

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Imagine being the host broadcaster for Super Bowl LIV. Now add the task of relaunching football's newest property, the XFL. To top it off, mix in NASCAR's storied tradition in Daytona Beach, FL. For Fox Sports, the past 14 days have been a whirlwind, to say the least. In its 20th season at the Daytona 500, the broadcaster is flaunting new technologies in the infield, such as an FPV racing drone and Strada crane, relying on SMT's data-tracking for virtual applications, and integrating with locations in Charlotte, NC, and Los Angeles.

Fox Sports recruited Beverly Hills Aerials, a Los Angeles-based company, for this year's FPV racing drone.

This will be the third or fourth year in a row that we've used a drone of some kind, notes Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations, Fox Sports. We started off with a tethered drone, then an untethered [one]. This drone is a lot smaller, a lot faster, and super promising.


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The Need for Speed: FPV Racing Drone Puts the Pedal to the Metal

When the Fox production team returned to its war room after last year's Daytona 500, it was looking for something more out of the aerial coverage. Although previous iterations of the drone had ushered in a new way of capturing NASCAR races from high above, a certain element was missing.

Every year, I think, we've moved the bar a little bit higher, but we never really got what we wanted to get, says Davies. In fact, what we found with drones was that, even though there's a fair amount of effort and expense, the camera itself looks like any other camera. We started looking for a drone that matched a sport that's all about speed and action.

To scratch this production itch, Beverly Hills Aerials, a company specializing in film production and headquartered near Fox Sports' studio in Los Angeles, came to the rescue. A kinship developed, derived from part necessity and part happenstance.

Michael Izquierdo pilots the drone near Daytona International Speedway's Turn 1.

We were introduced, and in fact, we received their regular email blasts, so we started talking to them about putting together a live package, he explains. We've been doing some testing out of Van Nuys Airport with these guys. They'll be in, and there's always a learning curve for a company that hasn't really done racing before.

The FPV drone, typically seen on broadcasts of drone racing, can reach 85 mph at top speed and is navigated with a headset that mirrors the drone's first-person camera. At the Daytona 500, it is manned by Michael Izquierdo, drone pilot, Beverly Hills Aerials, and viewers who tune into the broadcast can expect to see cinematic shots from man-made Lake Lloyd in the infield and even shots that run parallel along the cars on the asphalt. Given the drone's work rate, battery levels tend to drain quickly when operating at these high speeds. Despite the 24 extra sets of batteries that Izquierdo's packing, Fox Sports' planned role for this device does not include prolonged use throughout the long race.

The drone is less about covering the race than it is about providing cool, beauty shots, says Davies. I've got 50 other cameras that are shooting the race, and they do a great job, but this will really enhance our coverage.

Click HERE to watch the drone in flight

An Outstretched Hand: Strada Crane Covers 2 Miles of Real Estate

Along with the FPV drone high in the sky will be the network's Strada crane, reaching new heights. Stationed on the infield between Turns 1 and 2, the 80-ft. extendible structure will shoot sweeping views of the race itself as well as shots of the massive crowd expected to pack Daytona International Speedway.

The 80-ft. Strada crane will also capture aerial shots of the race.

The duo of the drone and the Strada crane will traverse the same (if not more) ground previously covered by the Mega Trax Rail Cam. Although the Rail Cam did the job, Davies says, eliminating it came down to a budgetary decision.

The Rail Cam was cool, but it was very expensive, he explains. The distances that needed to be traveled to have an effective shot within a 2 -mile track is exceptional, and the price wasn't sustainable. I'm hoping with the Strada crane and the drone, we'll cover what the Rail Cam did last year.

200 Laps Strong: BSI Visor Cams Top 50-Camera Complement

An auto-racing production is not complete without BSI's technological handprint. As with the company's work at the Indy 500, fans will get a look into the cars of multiple drivers during the race. At Fox Sports' disposal is the returning Visor Cam, a POV camera that will be attached to the helmets of No. 48 Jimmie Johnson and No. 77 Ross Chastain.

Each one of these cars will be wired up, says Davies. There's between eight to 10 cameras.

The Visor Cams are only the tip of the iceberg. With a grand total of 50 cameras, Artie Kempner, coordinating director, Fox Sports, has a wide selection to choose from. The complement will include 2
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