The tech of the 2019 Tour de France
July 26, 2019 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Flying Squirrels? - Are Technica looks at the intense technological and technical flight skills required to provide the iconic travel-guide-style coverage of today's Tour de France.
An AS350 serves as a relay helicopter, equipped with VHF antennas that receive and transmit live feeds from the AS355s, as well as ground cameras on motorcycles.

Circling at 2,000 feet (600m), the relay helo takes camera feeds and sends them to a fixed-wing aircraft flying higher at 10,000 to 25,000 feet (3,000-7,600m), depending on weather. The airplane sends the combined feeds back down to two receive trucks located along the race course.

The trucks act like signal repeaters, the first sending video to a satellite that sends it back to the second truck further along the course, which finally forwards the signal to the town where the finish line is located.
Bonus: 2019 is the first year to have live footage broadcast directly from cameras mounted on racers' bicycles. [Scroll down, no hard link to the subsection]
posted by hippybear (7 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Also, spare a thought for the two men who drive around painting over all the penises.
posted by selfnoise at 9:20 PM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

So cool! Six months of planning and a flight and filming script for each stage. The Tour is a great promotional tool for France tourism.
posted by St. Oops at 10:49 PM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

That live-footage-from-on-bike announcement is going to be amazing.

This is going to be part of an FPP eventually, but Terry Barentsen - who films alleycat races like MonsterTrack and his own Hotline series among other courier-race shenanigans has recently detailed the gear he uses, and it's amazing how lightweight (and affordable!) it is for a rig that gives you stabilized head-mounted 4k video. And video shot from the perspective of cameras that are right there in the mix is just way, way more intense than stuff shot from any distance, even a motorbike.

I'm surprised pro-cycling at the Tour De France level is getting this treatment, given how much effort pro cycling put into shaving every gram off their machines - I'd be surprised if we ever saw it on a team leader, but I guess that's what domestiques are for? - but every sport that can manage this is going to have on-athlete (or at least, on-official) cameras eventually, the video you get from it is just too good.
posted by mhoye at 5:34 AM on July 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

> Also, spare a thought for the two men who drive around painting over all the penises.

Is there another link for this story? is redirecting to some garbage URL.
posted by ardgedee at 6:26 AM on July 27, 2019 is redirecting to some garbage URL.

That's an issue with your DNS server or something. That URL works for me both on my phone and my desktop.
posted by hippybear at 7:55 AM on July 27, 2019

I remember a couple of years ago, I was at a friend's house to help him with something and asked if he minded me turning on the last few minutes of a stage, to see who would win. We turned on the TV to what can only be described as a near-pornographic shot of some insanely gorgeous French mountainside. Said friend was immediately kind of stunned and impressed, and I think about that quite a lot, as I watch dramatic, swooping shots of French countryside. The whole thing is just extraordinary.
posted by kalimac at 8:43 AM on July 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

mhoye, the minimum weight allowed by the UCI is 6.8 kg.

Since there are now production bikes under this limit, and TdF bike are customized even further, the camera needn't be a penalty.
posted by Kiwi at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2019

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