World’s fastest FPV drone with a 350km/h Top Speed will radically change how we watch F1 Races

The fact that the world’s fastest FPV drone looks somewhat like a missile is simultaneously incredibly cool and incredibly scary. It might change how we watch F1 races, but it has the potential to change much more than just that.

This just seems like the kind of crazy thing Red Bull would pull off. The company decided to challenge multiple-time F1 champion Max Verstappen to a race – the catch, Verstappen would be behind the wheel of a Red Bull F1 car, while his opponent would be the world’s fastest FPV drone. The project was in collaboration with Dutch Drone Gods, a group of FPV drone makers and pilots known for holding the existing title of the world’s fastest FPV filming drone with a 150km/h top speed. The only problem – Verstappen’s F1 car is more than twice as fast.

Designers: Red Bull Advanced Technologies & Dutch Drone Gods

Drones aren’t new in the F1 circuit, given that the racing organization uses a combination of aerial filming methods to get their shots. Sustained footage is taken on helicopters that hover above the track, but for up-close shots, the F1 team relies on drones… the only problem is that these drones don’t follow the car around. They simply hover in the air, taking cinematic panning/dolly shots before the camera angle changes. Understandably, creating a drone that can follow an F1 car around like a third-person camera in a video game is just a tad bit short of impossible. Drones have a notoriously low flight time, outputting probably a maximum of 15-20 minutes of flight before their batteries get drained. Moreover, F1 cars can hit speeds of almost 400km/h and are designed to be highly responsive, making razor-sharp turns on the tarmac. The Dutch Drone Gods’ FPV maxes out at 150km/h, and can’t perform sharp maneuvers in mid-air. This meant redesigning the drone to hit higher speeds while being responsive, and perhaps most importantly, not melting or exploding in the air because of all the heat generated by hitting upwards of 300km/h speeds.

Pilot and Founder of DDG Ralph Hogenbirk and F1 World Champion Max Verstappen with the Red Bull PFV Drone

The process saw multiple iterations from the Dutch Drone Gods’ team, who took up the challenge of pushing their drone to be as fast as a Formula 1 racecar. The challenge, aside from speed, was also to make the drone maneuverable, and durable. Initial tests yielded a few pitfalls, wires would melt under extreme heat, parts would wear and tear or even explode, but more interestingly, the drone’s stability would take a beating just because of the wind turbulence created by the F1 car as it zoomed across the track. Two rounds of prototypes also showed that simple off-the-shelf components and 3D-printed outer shells couldn’t handle the task, so the DDG team decided to visit the Red Bull Advanced Technologies headquarters to partner with the team there to design the drone. The new drone had machined metal structures, speed-capable inner components, and an FRP composite outer shell that was lightweight but highly resilient.

The final drone prototype got one single chance to race against Verstappen in the latest RB20 car on the Silverstone track. It fared incredibly well against Verstappen, filming the car as it blitzed through the track. The goal wasn’t to go faster than Verstappen’s car, that would be a foolish mistake, but rather, to capture the racecar from a unique following PoV, giving the audience the effect of moving at the same speed as Verstappen. F1 race broadcasts are already pretty exciting to begin with, but imagine being able to follow a car with a camera, capturing the intense speed, adrenaline, and reflexes of the race in real-time…

The engineering of Red Bull’s FPV drone could potentially revolutionize the landscape of F1 filming. Instead of static camera shots or quick drone shots that just pan across a track, Red Bull has potentially unlocked the ability to now follow cars as they race, creating an even more thrilling broadcast that could practically reinvent how people enjoy the sport. Heck, I could totally conceive the creation of a drone racing championship as a result too. The implications for Hollywood are just as exciting too, with cinematic drones getting a whole lot faster thanks to the Red Bull FPV Drone’s unique shape.

However, a drone hitting speeds of 350km/h has its own pitfalls too. Reconnaissance, surveillance, or potentially even weapon-based payload delivery could somehow become even easier and more accessible to anyone with the right tools. Sure, the Red Bull FPV drone isn’t a ballistic missile, but it’s dangerously close to being unstoppable. Try stopping a drone cutting through a military zone or an airport at 350km/h. This new world is exciting, but just as scary too.

That doesn’t take away from how incredibly impressive Red Bull and Dutch Drone Gods’ demonstration was. The Red Bull FPV Drone currently holds the record for defeating its predecessor by a factor of nearly 200km/h. The new FPV drone also gets the bragging rights of being able to keep up with Verstappen, a feat that not even other F1 racers can hold claim to!