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UAV Navigation in RBAR: Interview with Álvaro Navas, Sports Technical Manager at RedBull Air Race

UAV Navigation develops and provides the official telemetry services for the prestigious Red Bull Air Race series. Now, after the end of the last edition, we interview Álvaro Navas, RedBull Air Race Sports Technical Manager about the race, the competition and the products that UAV Navigation has developed for the show.


- First of all, what is your role in RBAR and what you like most about the race?

Alvaro Navas: I am the Sports Technical Manager, taking care of the interface between the aircraft and the spectator through technology (telemetry, onboard cameras, timing, tracking and judging) What I like from the Air Race is that I feel it as the top dream of all engineers. Each venue has new challenges, new places to see, new people to work with… it is never the same.




- Does the public reaction to the show vary significantly? Which country has a larger number of fans?

A.N.: Yes, it depends a lot on the location, countries with big aeronautical and sports markets react very good. The major fan countries of the Red Bull Air Race are in USA and in Spain


- How is the relationship between the engineers or the technical staff and the pilots? What is their function once the race started?

A.N.: The relationship like all with the rest of the world depends a lot on confidence. As part of my job is helping the judges rule their flights, this confidence can be broken easily if the system fails. And the function is to make everything work properly for the race.


- UAV Navigation provides the Ultra EFIS in the cockpit, what makes this product such an important element for the race?

A.N.: The UAV Navigation ULTRA EFIS is the main information control unit in the plane, it gets information from external, ground and internal sensors and processes them to give all the information needed for timing and judging. Also, serves as an interface from judging to the pilot allowing them to check in real time the parameters they are judged by.


- UAV Navigation also provides its magnetometer, engine monitor, Pitot Boom and datalink... Why these products are needed and what is their role in the race?

A.N.: All these except the Telem03 are external sensors that I was talking about in the previous point. The magnetometer (three dimensions compass) helps the Inertial unit inside (POLAR) enhance the artificial horizon and tracking. The Engine Monitor (EM03) is being tested and installed in these races and monitors all the engine safety related parameters to send them to the ground via telemetry. Some of these parameters are ruled (RPM limit of 2750) The pitot boom is at the moment a prototype and will probably be introduced in season 2015. It will allow to have additional sensor capability (Air Data System, Magnetometer, IMU) all in one. The Telem05 is the radio link used to the ground, sends all the data needed on the ground.




- Other products developed by UAV Navigation for RBAR are the LED strip and the audiomixer, what information do they provide?

A.N.: The LED strip and audio mixer are very interesting features, as they give rules information visually or by sound to the pilots (like entry speed or maximum g) without the need to lose their focus on the flight.


- What are the main features that should be asked to products dedicated to this type of competition and how do you select your providers?

A.N.: The main task is to make them stable and accurate, when they start to give different results on equal situations the confidence is lost instantly. We select our providers doing competitions between similar products for the same task and after a complete engineering report and taking into account the prize, the decision is made.


- Can any product for general avionics be used in extreme acrobatic flight competition or are there special requirements?

A.N.: No, all the general avionics that the pilots use in their planes are not able to keep up with the high dynamics of the race. The special requirements are a very fast reacting IMU, with fast gyroscopes and of course a customized estimator.


- What characteristics do you think will be the most valuable in the near future: spectacularity, security, more telemetry data ...? Do you consider RBAR is ready for it or does the avionic sector need to evolve?

A.N.: The most important thing for the Red Bull Air Race is to be able to connect with more people and make a big fan base. For the technical point of view, the aim is to give TV production a good set of usable telemetry data parameters to use for the final product. Accurate tracking data and engine related parameters are the aim for next season.

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UAV Navigation is a privately-owned company that has specialized in the design of flight control solutions for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) since 2004. It is used by a variety of Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers in a wide range of UAV - also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or 'drones'. These include high-performance tactical unmanned planes, aerial targets, mini-UAVs and helicopters.