2020 Daytona 500

New custom racing drone will capture Daytona 500 action while traveling 80 mph

Fox Sports will employ new drone technology as they work to innovate the way NASCAR coverage is shown to viewers.

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

NASCAR is back for 2020, with the Daytona 500 kicking off the newly title sponsor-less Cup Series tomorrow in Daytona. For Fox Sports, NASCAR's television broadcast partner for the first half of the premier Cup season, Daytona is a field laboratory for trying out new technology for motorsport storytelling.

For the past few years, there has been a particular focus on drone technology. First it was a tethered drone, flying along the backstretch but connected to the ground. Then, last year, Fox flew an untethered drone for the first time. This was a major accomplishment, requiring coordination and permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the track, law enforcement at all levels, as well as the Daytona Airport which is literally adjacent to the track.

Fox Sports green screen Lindsay Czarniak Fox Sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak stands in front of new green screen technology employed during the 2019 NASCAR season.Photo by Jordan Golson

It was, according to Fox executives, the first time an untethered drone was flown legally in a "temporary flight restriction zone".

Fox Sports has long been a pioneer in on-air tech, launching the yellow First Down line in football more than 25 years ago — which is now standard across football — as well as other innovations that were a little less successful, like the FoxTrax glowing puck in hockey.

Last year, Fox launched a new green-screen "virtual studio" where an entire broadcast studio was generated with augmented reality. That required new tech to insert artificial backgrounds on the green screens of the set between the camera shot and the control room, as well as new makeup techniques to offset the green on presenters faces.

Though the untethered drone last year was an accomplishment, it didn't give the Fox Sports production team video shots it didn't have before. It floated over the grass infield of the backstretch at Daytona — well away from fans and the cars, which it wasn't allowed to fly over. It worked as a test, which was great. But it wasn't footage that couldn't have been achieved in a more traditional manner.

"We had this thing out there and it worked and it was good quality," said Michael Davies, senior vice president of Field & Tech Operations, Fox Sports. "But, we could have gotten that from a jib. So we scratched our heads and said is it really worth it?"

This year, they have an 80-foot crane between turns one and two that was partially inspired by the shots the drone was able to get last year. "You'd be hard-pressed to tell that it's not a drone," said Davies.

But to make things a little more exciting, Fox has partnered with Beverly Hills Aerials, a drone firm that specializes in television and movie drone shots. Below is some footage from their test shoot during a NASCAR practice session at Daytona on Friday.

They built a custom racing drone that can go as fast as 80 mph. It's little more than some propellers, a battery good for six or seven minutes of flying time, a flight camera for the pilot, and a GoPro Hero 4 shooting at 720p and 60fps. It is surprising that the team would be using such an old camera (GoPro is selling the Hero 8 these days), but reliability is most important and since it works for them, they keep using it. Also on board is a transmitter that sends the GoPro footage straight to the control room and that's about it.

"It's a racing drone. And with racing drones, your platform is your drone. There's no gimbal and the camera is totally fixed," said Davies in an interview this week. "The movement of the camera comes from the movement of the drone. There's no two-man operation. We needed something that was faster and more agile."

The goal, says Fox, is to help put the viewer in places they've never been before. They've pioneered things like the Gopher cam, a camera literally inside the hole on a golf course, as well as the lipstick cam in baseball to show interesting views of the pitcher or batter.

"We want to cover the game from the inside out, versus the outside in," explains Davies. "Typical coverage is cameras placed around the field of play or track or whatever. What makes it interesting is a little bit more access in terms of putting cameras in places people haven't seen."

Thanks to the rise in the popularity of video games, which can put a virtual camera wherever you want, viewers aren't satisfied with static camera views. Even in-car cameras are considered commonplace these days, so Fox is putting cameras right on the helmet of the driver, making it even more personal.

"We can push in terms of in-car technology to give people a more intimate view of the race," explains Davies. "Fundamentally, that makes my job and what I'm able to do at Fox kind of interesting." Though the camera might be used during the race, he's also excited for other things that the speed of the drone, as well as the unique camera-angle, makes possible.

"After what we see Saturday and Sunday, we'll come up with other regimens of things we'll be able to do," says Davies. "It's literally a flying camera, topping out at 80 mph." That's not enough to chase a 200 mph stock car down the back stretch, but it's enough to be one of the fastest cameras that Fox has ever deployed.

"It's interesting to keep finding different things to do," he said. "I think from this one, there's gonna be no mistaking it. This is what I'm excited about. There's no other way to get these shots."

Below is the video feed from Fox Sports featuring the crash at the end of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Nascar Racing Experience 300 on Saturday afternoon.

The ability for the drone to fly during the Daytona 500 is unique, not just because of the technology, but because of the presence of President Donald Trump who will serve as grand marshal. Ahead of the race, the FAA and the Secret Service are restricting all flights within 30 miles of Daytona International Speedway unless they are approved law enforcement aircraft or military aircraft directly supporting the U.S. Secret Service or the Office of the President.

Looking up at the race will also allow attendees to see a flyover from the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds — their 10th in a row and their 11th overall —and the Goodyear Blimp.

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New Amazon Fire TV for Auto technology is debuting in the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are set to be unveiled soon. Ahead of those debuts, Jeep has announced that those vehicles will be the first in the industry to integrate Amazon Fire TV for Auto.

Amazon Fire TV for Auto will give Wagoneer family occupants access to their favorite shows, movies, apps, unique vehicle features, and Alexa. It will communicate directly with the SUV's Uconnect 5 infotainment operating system. Just like in other Amazon devices, content syncs with an existing Amazon account. This means that customers will be able to pause a show in their home and seamlessly continue watching once they get into their vehicle.

"The all-new 2022 model-year Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are designed and engineered to set a new standard for American premium in the large SUV segment," said Christian Meunier, Jeep® Brand Chief Executive Officer - Stellantis. "Launching Fire TV for Auto as an industry-first technology to the Wagoneer lineup illustrates one of the many ways we intend to deliver class-leading technology and connectivity to our customers."

Amazon The screen for Amazon Fire TV for Auto looks very similar to what you'd see on a TV at your home.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Amazon

Fire TV for Auto builds on the Fire TV experience that exists today with unique features that include:

  • Passengers can view Fire TV in high definition from the rear seats and the front passenger screen (a privacy filter disables driver viewing). When the vehicle is in park, the driver also can view Fire TV on the main Uconnect 5 screen
  • Touchscreen controls and support for compatible content can be downloaded on trips where wireless service is limited or to save on data
  • A Fire TV for Auto-specific remote provides control of the experience and includes push-to-talk access to Alexa, making it easy to find and quickly play shows
  • The remote includes a button that connects Fire TV with the new Uconnect 5 system for control of vehicle features, such as climate, maps and more

"We reimagined Fire TV for the automobile with a purpose-built experience that delivers the best in entertainment, anywhere you go," said Sandeep Gupta, Vice President and General Manager of Amazon Fire TV. "With Fire TV built in, customers can stream their favorite shows, see if they left the lights on at home with Alexa, and take advantage of unique controls through the Uconnect system."

Fire TV for Auto will be packaged with other connected services and made available in fall 2021 in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

This isn't the first time a Stellantis company has been on the cutting edge of in-vehicle tech. Jeep's stablemate, Ram, was the first to integrate SiriusXM 360L into a vehicle, its 2019 Ram 1500.

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The McLaren Artura is a new hybrid supercar.

Photo courtesy of McLaren

The McLaren Artura is the company's first series-production high-performance hybrid supercar and, like everything else McLaren does, they're not letting the natural forces of the Earth get into the way of a good time behind the wheel.

It's more than just a modern car. The Arturo is a way forward for McLaren. It's built on the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture, a new platform that allows for engaging drive dynamics and a hybrid powertrain.

The car is designed to have a low-nose, cab-forward, high-tail stance. It has dihedral doors, a short wheelbase, and low stance. McLaren describes the car as looking "almost 'shrink-wrapped''.

Mclaren Artura The Artura is ready for the track or street.Photo courtesy of McLaren

Mclaren Artura

The Artura's powertrain features a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that is paired with an electric motor and 7.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The power supply produces 671 brake horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. Up to 166 pound-feet of torque is available instantaneously, at the push of a throttle. That gets the car from zero to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, zero to 124 mph in 8.3 seconds, and zero to 186 mph in 21.5 seconds.

The Artura's lithium-ion battery consists of five modules that are refrigerant called using cooling rails. The assembly is bolted onto the rear base of the monocoque. The car delivers 19 miles of all-electric range.

Owners charge the vehicle via a plug-in hybrid power outlet. It can be charged to an 80 percent level in just 2.5 hours with a standard cable. Batteries can harvest power from the V6 while the car is operational. That harvesting is tailored depending on the drive mode selected.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. It pairs with McLaren's first electronic differential. It has an upgraded electro-hydraulic steering and Proactive Damping Control, which are deigned to enhance agility, stability, and dynamic performance.

McLaren Artura

Photo courtesy of McLaren

The total weight of all hybrid components is 287 pounds (194-pound battery pack and a 34-pound electric motor). The car has a dry weight of 3,075 and a wet weight of 3,303 pounds. That all-in weight is on-par with other supercars that aren't hybrids.

Four Powertrain models, including an E-mode for all-electric driving, Comfort mode for range and efficiency, Sport for more aggressive driving, and Track for premium performance. Separate handling mode choices adjust damper firmness and the degree of Electronic Stability Control intervention to suit driver preference and weather and road conditions. Drivers can choose Powertrain and Handling modes via a steering wheel control without their hands leaving the wheel.

The car's wheels are wrapped in next-gen Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The Cyber Tires generate real-time data and relay it to the car's stability control systems to optimize tire performance.

The interior sports standard power-adjustable seats and Homelink. Vehicle nose lift, power folding mirrors, carbon ceramic brakes, and soft close doors are also standard.

U.S. customers get standard power-adjustable heated Comfort Seats with memory. They can upgrade to new Clubsport seats that deliver the support of a bucket seat with a moveable backrest. The car's structure means that a 97.5th percentile (6ft 4in) driver can fit behind the wheel.

There are three further core specifications: Performance, which has a sporting, functional aesthetic; TechLux, where the focus is on the technical luxury that the name suggests; and Vision, which displays a more avant-garde and adventurous look and feel.

McLaren presents the Artura with a completely new interior featuring control buttons on the steering wheel, a new 8-inch high-definition infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Two high-definition screens include an interface that is built on all-new software. A stealth mode on the main binnacle hides non-essential content on the screens.

The vehicle is capable of over-the-air updates.

McLaren is equipping the car with a number of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, auto high-beam assist, and road sign recognition.

McLaren backs the Artura with a five-year new vehicle warranty, six-year battery warranty, and 10-year body warranty.

The McLaren Artura is priced to start at $225,000. The first deliveries of the car will commence in the third quarter of 2021.

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