Sailing UAS

Although buried under feet of snow and a skier, this cold is making me nostalgic for summer and sailing.  I cannot wait for the Volvo Ocean Race to come to Newport, RI this May, and was looking into how UAV have been used in relation to sailing.

Lo and behold, Dongfeng recently released a video shot by a drone that they launched off of their boat on a day of light winds.  I think UAS will become a boon for sail racing for a few reasons:

  1. Manned aircraft will produce too much wind disturbance to get close to sailboats.    A UAS is small enough that it won’t affect the wind on the sails.
  2. Sail racing is off-shore and hard to see.  The America’s Cup in Newport two years ago was designed to attract larger crowds by having smaller boats sail fast and close to shore.  This doesn’t work well for a long distance race.
  3. Manned aircraft cannot follow a boat on a race like the Volvo Ocean Race except near shore.  The ocean is a big place and it would run out of gas.  Dongfeng had a great idea and launching a small battery powered UAS can be done conveniently and easily.  Having seen these races, I’m not sure how anyone found the time since everyone is always so busy, but the results are great!
  4. When one is in international waters, UAS are fair game!

Newport banned UAS during the Newport to Bermuda race last year, so I’m not holding my breath for the Volvo Ocean Race, but who knows.

Here is one other video from my old haunt.  I lived in Charleston for 5 years and raced on these very same waters every Wednesday night for much of that time!


UPDATE Feb 6, 2015:  I spoke with Sam Greenfield, the photographer who took the video of Dongfeng.  He is from Groton, CT of all places and is the On-Board Photographer for the team.

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