The Bikes on the Bridge
We were invited by Knockhill Racing Circuit to an exciting event. The northbound carriageway of the Forth Road Bridge would be closed for a very short time to allow an excusive media event to take place to publicise round 5 of the British Superbike Championship. A number of the big names in motorcycling would ride their magnificent machines across the bridge allowing a select few members of the media to get pictures of them and conduct interviews.
There was going to be a very short window of opportunity for everyone to get their shots. The pressure would be on, because once it started there would be no chance to stop it or go again.
We went to the bridge a few days before the event to do a recce in order to assess the best places to take off and land, check out any obvious hazards and organise the permission.
The plan we started off with was to fly one drone from our fleet from one end of the bridge. However, when we surveyed the various options it was clear that we could safely use three of our UAVs, thus increasing our options for coverage.
Port Edgar Marina beside the bridge on the south side was happy for us to use two ends the 400 metre long eastern breakwater to take off and land two of our Phantoms equipped with GoPros.
There were two options for take off and landing for our Inspire on the north side, an area below the bridge or a service road beside the bridge on the same level.
There was also another drone going to be flying to cover the event. Between us we decided that for the sake of coordination and safety we would both take off roughly in formation from the service road.
The evening before the event we took our Phantoms to Port Edgar and did a couple of test flights to check possible interference and the sort of shots we would be able to achieve.
This went well even though we had to curtail it slightly due to a light rain shower.
Although we had permission from the Bridge Master to reduce our distances to the bridge it was only the northbound carriageway that would be closed. The southbound would still be live. We would therefore, have to maintain our 50-metre distance from the vehicles on that carriageway. This meant that the closest we could fly to the bridge would be 40 metres.
On the day we got set up in our respective take off areas after all our pre-flight checks and procedures had been done and waited anxiously for the news to come over the radio that the bridge had been closed.
The traffic disappeared. Then we were in the air, a widely spaced swarm of 4 drones buzzing beside the bridge waiting for the bikes.
Starting from the south end of the bridge three waves of bikes came across preceded by cars carrying cameramen and photographers.
We all did our planned shots.
Within a matter of three or four minutes all the bikes had reached the north side and the northbound was about to be reopened. We at the north end then had to land pretty quickly before the vehicles heading north reached and were inside our 50-metre distance.
It had all happened in a bit of a blur.
Once we downloaded the shots we were happy that we had achieved what we had set out to.
The next thing was getting them sent to the media outlets that needed them.
Early on in the evening, approaching the transmission time for the STV News we received a slightly panic call to say that due to internet and transfer problems the footage was taking a while to get across to STV in time for the report that was going to air.
The best way of making sure the material made the programme was for Martin to switch to news mode and dash to the STV studio with our copy of the footage, feed into their system and get it on air.
Paul the reporter was very grateful when he saw the footage. The programme was about to start. His Superbike report was not due to run until the latter part. He quickly and skilfully edited the shots into the report.
A few minutes later they were running on Scotland Today with a nice Hummingbird Imaging credit into the bargain.