‘I used to be flying together with the riders’ – how Cyclocross Worlds drone footage was shot

These watching the Cyclocross World Championships on the weekend is not going to have failed to note the spectacular photographs following Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert from the air as they negotiated the forest part of the Hoogerheide course.

Cyclocross protection is reliant on a sequence of fastened cameras set alongside programs. Nonetheless, the drone footage in use on Sunday was greater than a novelty. The drones eradicated a blind spot on the course and introduced viewers nearer than ever to the riders, offering a brand new perspective as the 2 lifelong rivals did battle over the rainbow jersey.

The person working the equipment was Jan Crommelinck, a Belgian ex-motocross racer who made a swap from a pastime of flying mannequin aeroplanes to the world of drones after struggling a coronary heart assault.

Crommelinck began with motocross races, then shot cyclocross in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he additionally counts Method 1 groups Ferrari and Purple Bull amongst his purchasers.

“I have been doing it for 12 years now as my most important profession. For me, it is like using a motorbike,” Crommelinck instructed Sporza (opens in new tab) after the Worlds. “It was an important expertise. My cellphone was filled with messages after – fortuitously most of them optimistic.

“Mentally, I used to be flying together with the riders on the course. Particularly after I was on the path of Wout and Mathieu. Then I felt the adrenaline and pleasure.”

The drone he makes use of is custom-made to be ultralight for pace and agility. The battery is so small it solely lasts 4 minutes. The digicam is a dismembered Blackmagic pocket digicam.

Crommelinck’s first encounter with a UCI race got here one 12 months in the past when he wowed the commentators with a skillful flight behind Lucinda Model on the Superprestige Gavere.

“The UCI stopped us as a result of they thought it was a standard drone,” Crommelinck recalled to Cyclingnews. The good flowing shot following Model may need the tipping level for the UCI permitting drones. “Now they provide us the chance to do it. However they’d just one rule – to remain about three to 5 metres from the riders. That was the one rule I needed to respect.”

Issues grew to become considerably extra difficult in filming the 2 World Championships rivals doing battle, with the riders, a packed viewers of 38,000, and the hazards of the forest part to consider.

He and his spotter Tim Verbruggen needed to keep away from the crowds, hold a set distance from the riders, and likewise keep in sight of the 1.5kg drone always whereas it was within the air.

“There are strict laws,” Crommelinck mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t fly above the general public. In Hoogerheide, it was potential to shut part of the observe for the general public. So it was potential for me to fly with out public subsequent to the observe.”

This view. 👀#Hoogerheide2023 pic.twitter.com/bD4qS3fLxjFebruary 4, 2023 See extra

Crommelinck and his firm Aeroplayfilms have labored with main purchasers in movie, commercials and motion sports activities, however the World Championships stood out.

“It was an enormous deal as a result of the race with Mathieu and Wout was a really large battle. So I needed to be very cool to do that – you may’t afford a mistake. I attempted to maintain myself calm, however the final after I went into the forest with them, it was like I used to be additionally within the race. I needed to be calm, and also you had the folks had been screaming very loudly. So it was troublesome to maintain the main target.”

The photographs supplied by Crommelinck and his drone had been spectacular and added a brand new dimension to watching the race, however will viewers ever see related on the highway? Situations that spring to thoughts embrace Tom Pidcock’s descent of the Col du Galibier on the Tour de France or Matej Mohorič’s dropper-post Poggio assault at Milan-San Remo.

Each had been nicely captured by means of the standard avenues of moto cameras and helicopters, and it seems as if it must keep that manner.

Restrictions on drone utilization imply that drones need to be evaded massive crowds, out of the best way of rivals, and likewise within the sight of their operators always.

Crommelinck defined that main highway races have too many spectators alongside the course, and the restrictions on flying over the general public would preclude capturing these races until organisers can shut sections of the highway.

So we cannot see his drone footage till the subsequent cyclocross season and past, for now. “I feel perhaps they’re prepared for us to do the Olympics subsequent 12 months in Paris for the mountain bike. Perhaps each organiser wants to shut down a bit a part of the observe. After which it is potential for us to fly extra races. I feel we proved in Hoogerheide that it’s potential to fly safely. That’s the most important factor – it needs to be very protected. And I feel we proved it final weekend.”

Chatting with CyclingWeekly (opens in new tab) final 12 months, Will Glover, a drone pilot for aerial filming firm Flying Footage, mentioned that laws on the utilization of drones are a difficulty, and so too is the at present out there know-how.

“That’s very troublesome in a motorbike race due to the good distance, due to bushes, tunnels and mountains, which imply you lose line of sight and thus the drone pilot can not management the drone, risking the protection of the flight,” he mentioned, additionally noting that flying over massive crowds would not be permitted by any aviation authorities.

“Most drone workout routines are known as visible line of sight operations, which implies the pilot has to see the drone always. With extra threat mitigation, you may conduct an prolonged visible line of sight operations, which permits the pilot to manage the drone utilizing aids to stay protected, reminiscent of a spotter with binoculars.

“That’s very troublesome in a motorbike race due to the good distance, due to bushes, tunnels and mountains, which imply you lose line of sight and thus the drone pilot can not management the drone, risking the protection of the flight.

“Loads wants to alter,” Glover concluded, to have the ability to seize drone footage of the motion at highway races just like the Tour de France.