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Real time tracking of sailplane racing.


Dunedin-based company, Animation Research Ltd (ARL) is set to do the same for gliding as they did for yachting in the America’s Cup with the most advanced 3D real time computer graphics the world has ever seen.

The graphics have been developed for the New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix in January, an event that is set to change the face of competitive gliding as it turns it into an exciting, spectator sport.

“In most sports we can look and see who’s winning and losing but in gliding, as in yachting, there’s no sense of the field,” said ARL managing director, Ian Taylor. “But we can create that field, even when it covers thousands of square miles.”

The race area is loosely defined by a cylinder with a radius of 85 km and a height of 20,000 ft giving 138,000 km3 of air that the gliders potentially travel through. The graphics revolve around data transmitted by Global Positioning Systems (GPS) installed in the gliders. While the Grand Prix software is based on ARL’s America’s Cup graphics, this is the first time ARL has developed graphics for a means of transportation that can move along three axes. Previous graphics have always had the ground or ocean to anchor them.

“The New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix is taking the America’s Cup concept to the next level – taking it to full 3D animation in space,” said Ian Taylor. “Gliding is a sport that involves a great deal of skill. However, the difficulty in the past has been, as in yachting, actually conveying these skills and putting them on display for the spectators. Stepping up and taking on this challenge is a natural progression for us. We are drawing on our experience, not just from yachting but also from an air traffic control project we’ve just finished plus there’ll be elements of NASCAR.”

The biggest challenge for the ARL team has been turning the digital data from the gliders into images in as close to real time as possible when the aircraft are over remote areas of the South Island with no cellular coverage. In true innovative style they have overcome this by using Iridium satellite technology to transfer the data, working with fellow Dunedin innovators, Flysafe who are supplying the GPS Pods.

The implications for the future with ARL’s software are huge as the technology can be applied to any one of the 10 Federation Aeronautique Internationale air sports that feature over 300 races around the world and have over 1.2 million active participants.

The New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix takes place in Omarama, North Otago on 21-29 January with the final three days open to the public. It features 11 of the top pilots from around the world, including current world champion, John Coutts (NZE) and world #1, Sebastian Kawa (POL) racing at speeds of up to 300kph, at times just metres above the ground. As well as the high speed racing, spectators will enjoy aerobatic displays and a host of on-ground entertainment. For more information and tickets, visit www.gp06.com or www.ticketek.co.nz.

Posted: 12/16/2005 By: General News

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