Watch: FPV drone goes head-to-head against Max Verstappen in a Formula 1 car

Feb 28, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Watch: FPV drone goes head-to-head against Max Verstappen in a Formula 1 car

Feb 28, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Drone vs Formula 1 - Ralph Hogenbirk and Max Verstappen

FPV drones chasing cars is nothing new. We see it quite often these days in car commercials. But what about Formula 1 cars? Well, there hasn’t been a drone that can keep up with them… Until now.

In this video, we get to see a 350kph drone go up against Max Verstappen in the Red Bull Racing RB20 Formula 1 car. And they’re doing it on the legendary Silverstone race track, home of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix.

YouTube video

This drone is insane

To help test the speed of a prototype drone, the team raced against Max Verstappen, three-time winner and current champion of Formula 1. He also has the record for the fastest lap at Silverstone, with an average speed of 151mph for a complete circuit.

While still an achievement, 151mph should be doable for a specialised racing drone. The real challenge is the 200mph and faster stretches as the car gets into the straights. Can the drone keep up with Max in a Formula 1 car?

Drone vs Formula 1 - Ralph Hogenbirk and Max Verstappen

Well, it turns out that, yes, it can. And it has better acceleration off the blocks than the F1 car, too, reaching 186mph (300km/h) in just four seconds.

Even the drivers were impressed

The drone was created by Dutch Drone Gods and Ralph Hogenbirk (AKA Shaggy FPV). It took a year to develop, with some help from the team at Red Bull Advanced Technologies. This is the same team that also works on the F1 car.

Initial tests with a prototype against the Scottish former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard looked promising. Even he seemed taken aback at the results. When it came time to race Max, a few parts from the Red Bull Advanced Technologies team helped to bring up the aerodynamics and efficiency.

Drone vs Formula 1 - Ralph Hogenbirk and Max Verstappen

The future of Formula 1?

For the race, Ralph only had one shot at keeping up. The shiny new car was only being let out for a single lap around the track. So, if they failed or messed up, they blew their only chance. But not only did they not blow it, it was pretty spectacular.

Max, was blown away by the footage, saying…

I never thought to see a drone going that quick. […] This can change how people watch Formula 1

Max Verstappen

It certainly does provide a unique perspective. While drone footage isn’t new to Formula 1, none of the ones they use today can keep up with Formula 1 cars. So, they’re usually hanging around the slower areas, or they’re just providing some kind of panning shot while the cars zip past.

Drone vs Formula 1 - Ralph Hogenbirk and Max Verstappen

I’d be very interested to see if this ends up just being a one-off publicity stunt for Red Bull or if we’ll actually start to see more drones filming formula one cars from angles never seen before in televised races.

Wireless video transmission would have to get a lot more advanced, of course. The live FPV view shown wasn’t that great. The good video was all recorded. That wouldn’t work for live production. But with the kind of money Red Bull can sink into something like this, that’s probably just a technicality.

[Images: Red Bull Content Pool]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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