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Live-streaming video footage from onboard cameras in the middle of a bike race has leapt from merely plausible to clearly possible.
Australian website CyclingTips.com collaborated with tinkerers Tom Reynolds and Andy Richardson, both of whom come from motorsport backgrounds where onboard cameras are widely used, to successfully live-stream video from inside the elite men’s race at the St. Kilda Cycling Club Shimano SuperCrit last Sunday. The test was far from perfect, but it proved that live onboard footage is technically possible.
Reynolds and Richardson borrowed and hacked drone video technology to get the project off the ground. The Shimano SuperCrit was the first test event, and though the duo ran into issues, including battery life, signal dropouts, an overheated laptop, and camera vibration, the project was proven viable.
Reynolds wrote about the project on CyclingTips.com on Thursday. He provided a five-point list of technical hurdles that would need to be overcome to bring such coverage to traditional road races like the Tour de France:
1. We’d need a system not too far different to what we currently have, but with a bespoke smaller camera system with on-board recording and a slightly better transmitter system. Costly, but it would work.
2. Footage from the cameras would be beamed to a helicopter above or perhaps to a motorcycle and then on to the chopper.
3. Due to battery issues, a software system to “wake” the camera up and then send it to sleep is important. You could perhaps get 90 minutes of live broadcast at best with existing smaller batteries. “Wake-up” software would mean you could “check in” with a rider and then sleep the system so you are good to go for the finish.
4. The bike build might have to be unique to reduce ballast, run custom wiring and aerial locations. Weight would be down to 500gms in total.
5. On mountain stages it might even be possible to get the rider to change bikes. It was done in the Tour de France in the past.
The UCI, which legalized the use of onboard cameras in racing this year, had no involvement in the project, but is actively considering how to bring live onboard footage into cycling coverage.