Red Bull Air Race World Championship with Riedel

Britain’s Paul Bonhomme won the 2009 Red Bull Air Race World Championship with a thrilling victory in the final race of the season in Barcelona in front of a record crowd of 800,000 spectators, holding off a ferocious challenge from defending champion Hannes Arch of Austria. On a gorgeous day in Barcelona with temperatures around 25 degrees, Bonhomme won after a brilliant performance in the final on the 6.4-km long track through a challenging 15-Air Gate obstacle course set up just meters above the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.

Canadian pilot Pete Mcleod at the final round of the 2009 Red Bull Air Race World Championship  in Barcelona, Spain. October 4, 2009.  (Credit: David Blundell/Red Bull Air Race via AP Images)

For the sixth year in a row, Riedel Communications is serving as the official global supplier of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Riedel, the leading manufacturer of intercom, fiber and audio systems and one of the world’s biggest rental services for wireless and wired communications solutions, is at the forefront of the event providing the entire communications and signal distribution solutions, integrating both HD video and audio signals as well as wireless and wired digital intercom systems. Additionally, Riedel is supplying the wireless video links for the race planes’ onboard cameras enabling stunning pictures to be delivered from the pilots’ perspectives.

The demands on the technical infrastructure of such a production, which includes the set-up of a mobile airport including a control tower, are enormous. The signal distribution infrastructure for video, audio, communications and data of such a production plays a key role, since it directly affects all other areas of the production. Since the 2009 season this infrastructure is based on Riedel MediorNet, a new fiber signal transport solution that includes routing and signal processing. The communications and video signal infrastructure of the Air Race production in Barcelona covered large areas. Video signals were needed at several locations for various applications such as the broadcast production, race control or video wall production. Therefore MediorNet’s network approach, which is capable of point-to-point and multipoint routing, is the ideal basis for such applications, delivering camera signals to both the German production company SIVision with its new 16.5m 26 camera HD truck and the video production for the events video wall production.

The fiber-optic signal backbone of the event was based on seven MediorNet nodes, which transported all intercom, HD video and audio signals uncompressed in real-time. Audio signals were interfaced via MADI and Riedel’s digital audio network solution RockNet. This allowed the seamless integration of the event’s main Yamaha audio mixing console, which provided the mix for the live audience. The events communications infrastructure was based on an Artist Digital Matrix Intercom network consisting of seven nodes connected via a dual redundant fiber ring. The seven frames were located in the Air Race control tower, the TV compound, the organization compound and at the race airport. At a day-time open air event like this, the special 8-digit LED display keys of the Artist 1000 series allows clear labeling of destinations and excellent readability under all lighting conditions including direct sunlight for all 130 RCP-1028 panels. In addition, the Artist 1000 panels provide broadcast quality audio and individual listen level control for each talk key.

A Riedel MediorNet mainframe at the Red Bull Air Race in Barcelona (Credit: Riedel Communications)

“To ensure mission-critical communications and signal transport, we designed an integrated system that takes in account all aspects of this world-class production,” explained Yungmin Lee, project manager of Riedel Communications. “We are enabling the communications of over 650 people involved with each Red Bull Air Race. Everyone from the pilot to security and referees are utilizing our state-of-the-art system.”
The Matrix intercom system was seamlessly integrated with Riedel’s Digital Trunked Radio installation (TETRA). TETRA combines the advantages of analog trunked radio with those of digital mobile radio, resulting in optimal frequency usage, the highest transmission quality for speech and data, maximum security against eavesdropping, 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. Over 550 Motorola MTH800’s were utilized to assist in the production of the races. Additional walkie-talkie radio systems were connected to the wired communication systems through 30 of Riedel’s universal radio interface RiFace.

The Barcelona air race used both the event location at Park del Poblenou and the airport, which was in the city of Sabadell, about 25 km away. To connect both locations, Riedel provided a digital wireless data connection between both locations with extreme high bandwidth. This link transports HD camera signals, audio, video, VoIP, radio, intercom and Internet connections.

Spectacular views of the Red Bull Air Races came directly from the cockpits with 28 wireless video links. On-board cameras captured live footage from the pilot’s perspective, but it was Riedel’s know-how and technology that ensured the secure signal transmission for video and audio. A special engineered six-channel diversity receiver combining technologies of various manufacturers guaranteed the secure signal transmission of audio and video event during the most extreme flight maneuvers. Four ground cameras were also utilized as well as two Cineplex high definition cameras in helicopters.

                          The control center at the Red Bull Air Race (Credit: Riedel Communications)

Time is a crucial factor for set-up of the event installation and has a direct effect to the production costs. MediorNet’s integration of various cabling infrastructures such as video, audio and data into one network significantly reduces time and effort in installation. Besides time, weight is another relevant issue for the Red Bull Air Race. With races in 6 different countries around the globe the reduction in weight through the use of fiber instead of copper cables translates directly into a lower transportation costs. In addition MediorNet’s on-board signal processing and conversion also result in less transportation costs since it eliminates the need for various external devices such as up- and down-scalers.

Riedel is also providing the most appropriate IT infrastructure for all Red Bull Air Races, including Internet access, VoIP telephone, network infrastructure with servers and firewalls and a media center for journalists.

Riedel Communications has been developing and delivering radio and intercom solutions for large-scale events for 20 years. "Thanks to our wide range of experiences we are able to provide communications solutions which meet any demands of large-scale event organizers," said Lee. "Apart from quality and know-how we are also accomplished in terms of quantity. As one of the largest rental companies for radio and intercom technology world-wide we also have the necessary stock to equip events of this size." Riedel delivered six containers with approximately 11 tons of communication equipment to the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

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