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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The entire VW lineup sees new features and tech.

Volkswagen

The 2022 Volkswagen lineup will be tech-forward and will have more standard features than before. That's the message the automaker sent with its most recent announcement, which gives us a solid look at the company's 2022 catalog and the standard features that will be distributed across it.

Most new VW models feature the brand's Digital Cockpit system, which is a digital gauge cluster that can display maps, audio and entertainment features, and more. The Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Golf GTI, and Golf R all come with the feature.


2022 Golf R VW's Digital Cockpit is not standard on several models.Volkswagen


VW's IQ.DRIVE system is also widely standard in the automaker's catalog. The technology includes a hands-on semi-automated driving function with lane centering and capacitive feedback on the steering wheel. Volkswagen says that in town, the system can help alert drivers to upcoming obstacles or to sudden changes in traffic activity ahead. IQ.DRIVE uses front and rear radar, a front camera, and several ultrasound sensors.

Several advanced driver assist features are also included in the IQ.DRIVE system. They include forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, active blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keep assist, and a semi-automated vehicle assistance system.


2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The Tiguan gets updated styling for the new model year.Volkswagen


Beyond tech updates for the new model year, Volkswagen has made changes to several other models' styling and powertrains. The Jetta, Jetta GLI, and Tiguan received fresh styling for the new model year, while the Arteon sedan now comes with a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.


2022 Volkswagen Taos The Taos is brand-new for 2022.Volkswagen


Finally, a new vehicle hits the VW lineup for 2022. The Taos is a compact SUV with styling similar to that of the Atlas SUV. It also gets the Digital Cockpit system as standard kit, as well as a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and optional all-wheel drive. The Taos starts at around $23,000 before destination.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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