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Mon 3 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Flying high

The 2008 installment of the Red Bull Air Race World Series, which kicks off in Abu Dhabi next month, will showcase a raft of cutting-edge events production and communications technologies.

The 2008 installment of the Red Bull Air Race World Series, which kicks off in Abu Dhabi next month, will showcase a raft of cutting-edge events production and communications technologies.

The Red Bull Air Race World Series is a competition based on speed, precision and skill that pits the world's most talented pilots against each other.

The race requires a dynamic discipline of flying, called 'air racing' where the objective is to navigate a challenging course in the sky, in the fastest possible time.

Flying against the clock, each pilot has to execute tight turns through a slalom course consisting of specially designed pylons, known as 'air gates'. They compete in knockout rounds with the two fastest pilots going head-to-head in the final race.

The first World Series was staged in 2005 and involved 10 internationally acclaimed pilots competing in races staged at seven venues worldwide.

In 2007, 13 pilots took to the skies as part of a 10-race series which took in locations including Perth, Australia, London, UK, and Budapest, Hungary, attracting massive crowds in the process.

With the event's growing popularity, owed in part to extensive international media coverage, this year's series - which kicks off in Abu Dhabi in April - promises to be even bigger again.

The fast-paced nature of the event demands the use of cutting-edge communications technologies linking production techs, event organisers and pilots in the air.

Red Bull Race organisers are working with German wireless communications specialist Riedel Communications to develop a full-scale AV and communications network which will be temporarily installed at each venue.

Riedel supplies around 11 tonnes of communications equipment to each Red Bull Race event.

The infrastructure will allow for voice communications on the ground and in the air, as well as supporting video capture and playout services, with the content eventually being aired by more than 100 television networks located in various regions throughout the world.

"To ensure mission-critical communications, we have designed a system that leverages the best of both wired and wireless communications," claims Thomas Riedel, managing director of Riedel Communications.

The infrastructure is providing communication services to the more than 650 people involved in staging each Red Bull Air Race. Everyone from the pilots to security personnel will utilise the state-of-the-art system.

HISTORY OF THE EVENTThe first Red Bull Air Race was staged in Zeltweg, Austria in 2003 and was followed by another race at Tököl Airport near Budapest. In 2004, three races were staged in Kemble (UK), Budapest (Hungary) and Reno (USA) respectively.

The inaugural World Series in 2005 consisted of seven races in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Zeltweg (Austria), Rock of Cashel (Ireland), Longleat (UK), Budapest (Hungary) and San Francisco (USA).

The 2006 Red Bull Air Race Series took in eight different locations: Abu Dhabi (UAE), Barcelona (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey), Budapest (Hungary), Longleat (UK), San Francicso (USA) and in Perth (Australia).

In 2008, race events will be held in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Stockholm (Sweden), Detroit (USA), Rotterdam (Holland), London (UK), Budapest (Hungary), Madrid (Spain), Porto (Portugal), San Diego (USA) and Perth (Australia).

In terms of technical features, a Riedel Artist 128 network consisting of three nodes connected via a dual redundant fibre ring is employed by the production crew for audio signal distribution.

The three frames are positioned in the air race control tower, the broadcast compound and the event organiser's offices located on-site.

Artist 1000 panels provide broadcast quality audio and individual listen level control for each talk key. Four PMX-2008s, designed for panel distribution and transport of audio signals provide a cost-effective solution to minimise set-up time with eight BNCs connected to the matrix panels via a fibre link.

More than four miles of fibre is employed in the audio and video backbone.

A Matrix intercom system is seamlessly integrated with Riedel's Digital Trunked Radio installation (TETRA).

TETRA combines the advantages of analogue trunked radio with those of digital mobile radio, resulting in optimal frequency usage, high transmission quality for speech and data, maximum network security, as well as flexible networking and connection management.

Additionally, digital trunked radio offers full duplex communication, GPS-positioning and connection to the public telephone network or company telephone systems.

Around 450 Motorola MTH800 handsets are typically used by production staff at each event, while additional walkie-talkie radio systems are connected to the wired communication network employing up to 20 of Riedel's RiFace universal radio interface systems.

In terms of video technology, 28 wireless video links provide spectacular views from the cockpit of each contestant.

On-board cameras capture live footage from the pilot's perspective, while four fixed cameras are also employed on the ground as well as two Cineplex high definition cameras in helicopters.

Meanwhile, a specially engineered six-channel diversity receiver combining technologies from various manufacturers ensures the secure signal transmission of audio and video content even during the most extreme flight manoeuvres.

An extensive fibre-based IT network also provides for various services including VoIP telephone and broadband internet access.

With the aircraft typically based offsite at a remote runway during the course of the event, Riedel also provides a digital wireless data connection linking the take-off site and the competition venue.

The link transports HD camera signals, audio, video, VoIP, radio, intercom and Internet connections.

RED BULL WORLD SERIES FACTS• In 2007, the 10 event Red Bull Air Race season attracted more than eight million spectators worldwide.

• The final day's competition of the event staged in Budapest, Hungary, attracted one million people alone.

• The race is run on a slalom course over water at speeds of up to 400km/h with pilots pulling up to 10G in the process.

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