Max Verstappen Being Chased by the World’s Fastest Drone

New technology invented by Dutch team ‘Dutch Drone Gods’ delivers the fastest FPV drone single shot, following Max Verstappen’s brand new Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 for a full lap of the Silverstone Circuit.

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The uninterrupted first-person-view (FPV) footage of Verstappen’s full lap of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit was shot with a manually piloted drone that was custom-built for this purpose.

The 2024 car was brought up close and personal to viewers for the first time, marking the successful flight of a camera drone at such speed and duration, capturing high-definition video.

“I never thought I’d see a drone going that quick just for camera footage,” said Verstappen after seeing it in action on the circuit.

“I didn’t know it was following me whilst driving in the wet, and it was very close to me in some places,” continued the three-time Formula One World Champion. “I was shocked at how quickly it could keep up and how close it could get in the corners. It gives a different perspective to watching Formula One,” he added.

It took over a year to create a drone that could accelerate two times faster than an F1 car, reaching 300 km/h in just 4 seconds, with a top speed of over 350 km/h.

Dutch Drone Gods and pilot Ralph Hogenbirk, also known as Shaggy FPV, have been preparing for a lap behind their countryman Verstappen with multiple flight simulations, and the first concepts of the drone were drawn in their workshop located in Eindhoven, in the South of the Netherlands.

The development was accelerated by the Dutch Drone Gods’ access to the expertise and processes of Red Bull Advanced Technologies, a high-performance engineering arm of the Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team. The company designed and manufactured lightweight, aerodynamic fairings and structural motor mount arms to help reduce the total mass of the drone by approximately 10%.

This progress was trialled through numerous tests at Formula 1 tracks, utilising RB8 and RB19 cars driven by reserve driver Liam Lawson and 13-time Grand Prix winner turned broadcaster David Coulthard.

“When you see the big, wide shots, you lose perspective on the car’s speed. So many applications give the fans the feeling of what it’s like to be in one of these race cars. When you have the drone up close like that, you’re immersed in the whole experience. I’m sure we will see this as part of our broadcast in the not-too-distant future,” said David Coulthard.

The pilot controlled the drone’s flight route using a radio controller, observing the flight path solely through goggles that provided a low-resolution view from the drone’s vantage point. The camera angle was adjusted simultaneously with a foot pedal, requiring precision in hand-to-eye coordination to deliver a smooth close-up shot of an F1 car going over 300 km/h.

Having previously piloted a variety of FPV drones following MTB bike athletes in events like Red Bull Cerro Abajo, keeping up with the Formula 1 car going at full speed presented a new challenge for Shaggy FPV and the emerging technology, encompassing cornering, acceleration, deceleration, battery life, connectivity between the drone, receiver, and the pilot, as well as navigating over bridges and under billboards.

“This is a special drone because this is the only one with a fitted camera and goes this fast. It’s fully custom-built, and we have developed it as a one-of-a-kind product. It is a very challenging project to create a fast enough drone to keep up and keep the car in full frame whilst capturing the shot interestingly,” commented the drone pilot Shaggy FPV. “This was the craziest shoot I’ve done so far.”

Not only was it challenging for the pilot to stay close to the RB20 car while navigating obstacles such as bridges around the circuit, but there were also significant technical hurdles for the drone to overcome.

While the average consumer drone travels around 60 km/h, with an approximate battery life of 30 minutes, this new drone, designed to chase the RB20, needed to fly with the agility of an F1 car. This meant it needed significant decelerations, notably reducing battery life to approximately 3 minutes. Verstappen was aware of these challenges as he watched the footage of the drone trailing behind his car.

“For the pilot, there are a lot of things that you need to consider, for example, avoiding bridges and anticipating our braking points, as we have a brake pedal, but in the air, it works differently. So, it’s very stressful, I think, to be that focussed,” commented Max Verstappen.

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