Revolutionary drone operator has Team NZ flying high in Bermuda
A ground-breaking drone and its American operator has helped Team New Zealand win the America's Cup.
Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby recruited Wisconsin's Nick Bowers as the syndicate's performance analyst on the back of his revolutionary work with the flying cameras.
As Emirates Team New Zealand surged to a famous win against defenders Oracle Team USA, revelations seep out about the ground-breaking technology they are using beyond their radical cycling grinders and remote wing control system.
The New York Times reported that Bowers has developed a drone that is capable of accelerating from 0-96 km/h in one second. That enables his lens to keep pace with the foiling 50-foot catamarans that approach that top-end speed and has proven a problem for stock-standard drones.
Bowers has also developed a technique to fly his drones at angles others haven't mastered, even getting below the level of the hulls that lift out of the water.
America's Cup teams use onboard cameras to sync with telemetric data coming off the multiple sensors that cover these boats. Bowers' drone work, done from the Team New Zealand chase boat, has added another dimension in terms of synchronising the crew's work to the catamaran's performance. Bowers, who made his name filming smaller foiling catamarans, said he needed to make adjustments to cope with the demands of yachting's biggest arena. "I wanted to film one of these America's Cup boats sailing upwind, but nothing commercially available could do that," he told The New York Times.
"It wasn't like I woke up one day and said, 'I want to build drones.' It was done out of necessity."
The Kiwis snared Bowers from under the nose of defenders Oracle with his ground-breaking work known to the United States Olympic sailing programme. Leandro Spina, the development director of that programme, said: "He can fly in conditions other people cannot. When it gets pretty windy, Nick will fly. Other people will be like, 'No, it's too windy.' But he has no limitation with drones."
Bower said his breakthrough technique came out of necessity. Initially he filmed without a monitor because he couldn't afford one. He instead watched the drone rather than a video feed, discovering it gave him better control and footage, especially when running the drone right alongside the catamaran. He also replaced the traditional wide-angle lens with one that had a more direct focus. "Basically, I wanted to trick people into thinking I was flying a big camera," he said.
Bowers and his young family moved to Auckland for the development phase of the Team New Zealand boat. Sadly, Bowers wasn't in Bermuda to witness the crowning glory of his work because of Bermuda's strict drones’ laws. Drones were banned from flying above the regatta course on the Great Sound and other areas in Bermuda from May 22 to June 30.
But the innovator hasn't stood still. The New York Times reported he and his family, which now includes a son born in Auckland, have headed back to Wisconsin, where he is trying to start his own company, Bear UAV, using a 3-D carbon fibre printer to stamp out new drones.
I began my career as a builder and progressed through to the owner of Mojo NZ Ltd. The first drone I owned is to this day lodged in a tree on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We now provide drones to all industries from toys to racing drones to professional camera drones. This blog is a look at ourselves and the industry in general.