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F1 talking to Red Bull about using 220mph drone – but safety factor is a limit

Formula 1 is considering ways to use Red Bull’s new 220mph drone, but safety issues make it impossible to get best use out of it over a grand prix weekend.

Red Bull recently captured the imagination of fans when it showed off spectacular footage of Max Verstappen during its recent Silverstone filming day from an overhead drone that tracked the car for an entire lap.

The Red Bull Drone 1 can hit F1 speeds and has been developed by Red Bull’s Advanced Technologies division in association with the Dutch Drone Gods company.

The drone footage is a big step above the limited drone footage that F1 has shown so far, but there remain a host of challenges to overcome before it could be used extensively on a grand prix weekend.

F1’s director of Media and Broadcast Dean Locke says it has held talks with Red Bull and the FIA about what might be possible, but thinks it is unlikely the drone could be used at races when crowds are in place.

“It is really interesting what they have done with it,” he said. “But it was a private test, and they don't have to adhere to 90% of the rules that we have to.

“We are talking to them [about it]. Is it something we could do? What do you do with it?

“It is really quick, but you can't fly over a crowd, and you can't cross the track. Plus it doesn't have a moving head, so it's actually got to follow the car or be to the side. So it's actually quite tricky.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and the Red Bull Drone 1

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and the Red Bull Drone 1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Locke said that safety had to be a priority when it came to making more use of drones at F1 events.

“The drone has been amazing for some sports but, for us, it's still very challenging,” he said.

“The speed of cars are still ridiculously fast and we have these events where we're getting over 400,000 people turning up over a weekend. So not flying over crowds is actually quite difficult now.

“We're working on it, and we had a meeting the FIA [in Bahrain] to discuss some various stuff.

“We are also doing some work not only speed of drones, but just how light can we go? Can we go incredibly small? So if it does drop, it's doing very, very little damage opposed to the companies that always approach us with these huge things.”

However, despite the restrictions, Locke has suggested that there may be some track areas without crowds where the Red Bull drone could work.

“There are places, like the backstraight in China, and the backstraight in Austin, there are a couple of areas where we plan to talk to them about it,” he added.

Red Bull Drone 1

Red Bull Drone 1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull’s drone pilot Ralph Hogenbirk, also known as Shaggy FPV, told Autosport he was unsure what the next steps were.

“We have no idea where we're actually going to go from here,” he said. “But of course the goal is to have some livestream capabilities in an actual race or free practice or whatever.

“To combine this with a Formula 1 circuit in some kind of way. Because it's specifically built to do that.”

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