Custom FPV drones and elite pilots are helping to capture the action at Red Bull’s mammoth “Natural Selection” snowboarding competition. It’s happening at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And it’s pretty slick.

The Natural Selection competition features top snowboarders traversing natural routes down the side of a mountain. No groomed slopes for these competitors; they’re flying between the trees, over jumps, and through the air on gorgeous but completely natural routes. So how to capture them for the audience? Well, you could go the traditional route, using multiple fixed camera positions.

Or… you could use an FPV drone.

Red Bull and FPV

As this year’s competition approached, word came that Red Bull would be using FPV drones to capture the event. Using drones, said a news release, would help keep the slopes pristine by simply following each competitor as they carved their own paths. A long-range, waterproof custom FPV rig was developed specifically for the event.

This new drone was developed, for first-use at this week’s YETI Natural Selection Tour, by world-champion racing drone pilot and physicist Gabriel “Gab707” Kocher, Ph.D and the team at Uncle Toad’s Media Group, the tour’s production company. The result is a video game-like, third-person angle of the riders descending the course in real time. Operating these gimbal-equipped drones requires a very high level of skill. The contest’s primary drone angle will feature two world champion drone racing pilots “Gab707”and Jordan “Jet” Temkin at the sticks.

News release

Update: Just look at the fun::

A great match

Think of the speed and agility of top snowboarders. Now think of the speed and agility of a FPV. It makes this a very good match:

This really puts the spectator at the front seat of the action. While general camera drones are known for delivering smooth stabilized footage, racing drones are known more for their agility, power and speed. This drone is a merger of those two worlds, delivering broadcast-grade footage, while being able to follow the riders in close proximity down the course at speed. We spent months looking for solutions out there, but had to revert to building things up from scratch to achieve the vision without compromises.

Gabriel “Gab707” Kocher

Let’s get to it

Agreed. Check it out:

That. Is. Wild.

Built for the task

The drones feature an X8 configuration, and the machines have been conformal coated. The piloting is excellent, providing a “you are there” experience that could not have been achieved with conventional cameras.

“What makes the Natural Selection Tour so unique is that its venues are so vast and spread out. This is also what makes it nearly impossible to cover as a seamless live event,” says Chris Steblay, creative director and senior producer at Uncle Toad’s Media Group. 

Luckily for us, this tour is coming at just the right moment in the evolution of technology. Over the course of the last year we set out to develop and build the first-ever stabilized racing drone with a live full-HD video feed. From the size and power of modern race drones to the quality and reliability of wireless video feeds, this event is pushing the limits of what exists for live broadcasting.

Chris Steblay

We look forward to watching more of the coverage.


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