Using a technique they developed specially for this purpose, the IUPUI researchers, led by principal investigator John Goodpaster, Forensic and Investigative Sciences director and associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, analyzed tires from the vehicles of first-, second- and third-place finishers of midget car races across the United States. Approximately 15 percent tested positive for illicit chemical treatment. Concerns about cheating in auto racing are increasing with the introduction of commercial products claiming to have the ability to boost performance while remaining "undetectable." Tire treatments, in particular, have become a major concern for the administrative bodies that regulate motorsports. Midget cars, called "speedcars" outside of the U.S., are open vehicles built around a tubular frame with very high power-to-weight ratio. Many of the biggest names in IndyCar and NASCAR racing drove midget cars earlier in their careers. Midget cars race on small tracks requiring adroit handling of tight curves. The prohibited commercial tire-treatment products, applied in liquid form days before the race to evade detection, soften the tires, enabling better handling of curves and higher lap speeds. "We used a technique similar to that used by forensic scientists to detect trace amounts of gasoline in fire debris," said Goodpaster. "This kind of technique had not been previously used to detect performance-enhancing tire treatments. We were able to identify even low levels of illicit chemicals, which would result in disqualification if found in a competition. Out of 70 tires, 10 returned a positive result for the presence of prohibited treatments. As word circulated that we were testing tires, incidence of illegal treatments decreased." Goodpaster notes that in addition to detecting prohibited tire treatments the sensitive technique developed at IUPUI could be used to evaluate race car fuel, motor oil, lubricants and cooling agents—all of which could be chemically altered to provide an unfair advance to a vehicle. "As in other sports, there is there is a temptation to bend the rules," Goodpaster said. "Hence, motorsports administrative bodies are increasingly cracking down on abuse. Tire treatment with prohibited products and other illicit doctoring in motorsports is analogous to doping by athletes in search of gold medals, lucrative contracts or other recognition." "Detection of Prohibited Treatment Products on Racing Tires Using Headspace Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME) and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS)" is published online ahead of print in Analytical Methods, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Explore further: Student designs of 'intelligent' tires for tomorrow win kudos at a prestigious international trade show
News Article | March 25, 2016
It’s still not clear where drone racing is going to fit among other sports like NASCAR, especially since the Federal Aviation Administration has been so finicky in deciding exactly how to regulate the manless aerial vehicles. But what we do know is that a ton of money is being dumped into competitions supporting the new hobby. The latest example is Dubai’s World Drone Prix, the largest global drone race. The race took place earlier this month and was one of the priciest of its kind, offering $1 million in prize money, bankrolled by the United Arab Emirates. The $250,000 grand prize went to a teen, 15-year-old Luke Bannister, who beat out 150 other teams in a series of qualifying rounds. In this new video from Bloomberg Business, you can check out the rest of what went down at one of the world’s swankiest drone racing competitions. The event, hosted by the World Organization of Racing Drones, took place at night. Teams monitored their drones’ stats during the race with VR headsets, which fed video from the front of each of their drones. The 12-lap race included a number of different obstacles that each drone had to navigate, with the goal being to accumulate as few penalties as possible while still maintaining a fast speed. One of the coolest elements of the race was crazy looking spine-shaped track which you can watch one of the drones flying on here. While drone racing continues to gain momentum, we’ll keep to wondering about their other applications, like potentially causing a crisis for the Second Amendment .
News Article | January 22, 2016
For anyone that had maybe been considering taking a drone up to catch some beautiful footage of Super Bowl 50 from the air, think again. The Federal Aviation Administration has released new flight advisory information detailing the off-limits areas during the game — and part of that means no drones, too. But though this gets trotted out every year that drones remain popular, it’s worth noting that drones (or more specifically, unmanned aircraft) have been unauthorized to fly in the airspace above such events since at least 2014. That ban comes courtesy of a blanket Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) dealing with sporting events. Specifically, NOTAM FDC 4/3621. It’s a pretty lengthy catch-all designed to cover all the bases, as it were, when it comes to dealing with flights in the airspace around stadiums. This restriction's set at a three-mile radius and 3,000 feet above the ground. For the purposes of drones, here’s the relevant bit with added emphasis: The notice also covers NASCAR events and the like, but football’s what we’re concerned with here. That 30,000 or more might seem like an arbitrary number, but it covers a lot of ground. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — where Super Bowl 50 is set to occur on Feb. 7 — has an estimated seating capacity of 68,500. So, therefore, it would obviously be covered under the blanket NOTAM. Barring a revision and issuing of a new blanket NOTAM, unmanned aircraft will continue to be banned from future Super Bowls barring the unlikely event that one occurs at a stadium capable of seating fewer than 30,000 people. Even then, the FAA would likely just issue several temporary restrictions based around the stadium given that they already do so in addition to the 2014 NOTAM.
Let’s get this out of the way first: I wear a bike helmet. I think everyone should wear a helmet, including car drivers and pedestrians, who both have a tendency to go through windshields and suffer severe head injuries when involved in a crash. But the only drivers I know that wear helmets are professional racers, and as Doug Gordon noted in a tweet,“When a NASCAR driver crashes, no one uses the event to admonish ordinary motorists to wear a helmet.” Yet after Annemie van Vleuten crashed in the Olympic road race, there was a whole lot of helmetsplaining on twitter from people who suggested that this is “proof that every cyclist should wear a helmet.” Helmetsplaining is a derivative of mansplaining, the most hilarious example of which also happened in relation to Annemie van Vleuten. In helmetsplaining, people who clearly do not ride bikes and do not know that there is a difference between racing down a mountain at maximum speed on a bike and going to the store for a quart of milk, consider themselves experts in bicycle safety and lecture everyone else. Safety at the World's Busiest Cycle Intersection (Copenhagen) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo. Let me do some lanesplaining. If you look at places where cycling is common (like in this short video of Copenhagen) and where there is good bike infrastructure, almost nobody is wearing helmets. Yet the rate of injury per kilometres travelled is a fraction of what it is in the United States. One can infer from the statistics that it is not the helmets that are saving people from injury, it is the infrastructure. The helmetsplainers are delivering a message that cycling is dangerous and that you have to armour up to get on a bike or you might not get there alive. This scares people who might otherwise use a bike for their daily commute or for shopping like they do in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. The helmetsplainers will dress up nicely and brush their hair before they get in their car because they want to look nice, but expect the people on bikes to dress up in dayglo and get helmet head. The helmetsplainers ignore the fact that mandatory helmet laws and gory helmet promotion campaigns significantly depress the number of people who cycle for daily commutes or shopping because it is uncomfortable in hot weather and it is ugly, and it is not what people want to do when they are just going out to live normal lives and do normal things. The helmetsplainers don’t understand why bike activists get so angry about helmetsplaining when it might be true that wearing a helmet can prevent injury, although there are studies that even question that. They ignore the statistics that show how many head injuries happen in cars and to pedestrians and how they should be wearing them too. The Helmetsplainers don’t get that we want to make riding a bike feel safe and normal, which might encourage more people to get out of cars and overcrowded transit systems and onto bikes, which actually has been shown to be the best way to reduce injuries, as can be seen on this graph that shows that the more people bike, the lower the rate of injuries, irrespective of helmet use. Or that it might reduce pollution and make people healthier and fitter, which has been shown to save more lives than helmets. That we don’t want armour, we want infrastructure. But then the helmetsplainers might have to give up some parking spaces or the occasional driving lane or slow down, and we can’t have that.
News Article | January 26, 2016
Immediately after watching the Drone Racing League’s launch video at its party in Brooklyn last night, the league’s premise reminded me of something, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Halfway through its series of keynote presentations, something one of the league’s executives said made it click. “You have to start with a vision,” Tony Budding, the league’s director of media, said. “What are the stories? Is it true sport? Is it entertainment? Are we going WWE, is it NASCAR? Formula 1? There are all sorts of ways we can address it.” The DRL is an attempt to take the niche hobby of first person view drone racing—in which pilots strap on video goggles that show a live stream of a front-facing camera on the drone, which can go nearly 100 mph—and turn it into the world’s next big sport. It’s a mix between Star Wars pod racing, Mario Kart, and NASCAR. But what felt most familiar about the DRL, which announced its existence to the world today, is its allusions to professional wrestling. Racers have been stripped of their real names and have been given new ones like “Legacy,” “Ummagawd,” and “Kittycopter,” the league will emphasize personality and interpersonal beefs almost as much as the racing itself, and there’s a glitz and glamor about the whole thing that you won’t find at a DIY racing setup in a park. I’m wondering how the drone racing community, which is typically made up of low-key tinkerers, will respond to DRL’s launch. Budding’s team employs the sorts of camera crews used for NFL games (the first race was at the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium in Miami in December), and the races are one-on-one to play up the tension between racers and make it easier to follow. From what I saw last night, the production values are extremely high, the racetracks are exotic, the drones are custom engineered for and owned by the league. The pilots are professionally employed by the league itself (there are no teams, each racer competes individually using DRL-designed drones). There’s a promo video of a DRL drone racing a Porsche 911. At one point during the party, a DRL marketing person suggested that the plan is to eventually have a Hunger Games-style command center that can be used to give specific drones speed boosts or can be used to remotely shut off a drone. The drama is there from the start: At one point in a video we were shown, a racer named Ummagawd who got into racing because he saw the LED lights of a drone flying at Coachella (!) solemnly says that he’s flying because his recently deceased father would have wanted him to make the sport and himself famous. Alex Walsh, a drone pilot we met in the Bronx last year, is now Legacy, a don’t-fuck-with-me native New Yorker who honed his fast-twitch muscles playing Call of Duty. The league’s races are filmed, then produced, then will air weeks or months after they actually took place. Budding said during his presentation that some of the crashes shown in promo videos are “enhanced for effect.” “What we tend to do is, after everything is done, for some spectacular crashes we loosen the bolts and we put some plastic parts on and fly them as fast as we can into something very hard,” he said. “It makes them spectacular.” In other words, this is a business that is making a very serious go of making drone racing into a verifiable thing, with personalities and drama that the types of people who are into the NFL, the WWE or, at the very least, esports can get into. The DRL is flooded with venture capital money (one of its investors is RSE Ventures, which is owned by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross) is being run by people who have a history of successfully hyping sports lifestyle events—its founder, Nicholas Horbaczewski, was an exec at Tough Mudder and Budding was heavily involved in Crossfit—and is being marketed as the next biggest sport in the world. I’m very curious to see how it all works out. Over the last year or so, there’s been greater interest in FPV racing, and a few smaller leagues have launched. There have been meetups organized in parks and tennis bubbles and forest trails around the world. Part of the whole appeal of drone racing has thus far been the customizability and uniqueness of each individual drone. “Every other league has tried to do it from the ground up,” one hobby drone pilot I met last night, who is not affiliated with the DRL, told me at the party. “These guys are saying, ‘Here’s the money, make something that people want to watch.’ They’re trying to solve the marketing and the product and are hoping the other parts fall into place.” That may be a bit reductive, but it’s fair to wonder if drone pilots will think this is the best way to introduce the sport to the public. DRL’s director of product is Ryan Gury, a drone designer who we profiled last year and who is as tapped into the drone racing community as anyone. Many of the pilots DRL has signed up are first rate and its courses certainly look top-notch. I left feeling impressed, but I’m not a drone racer. So I’m wondering: Will the DRL be “real” enough for the hobby’s diehards? If it’s popular with the masses, will it even matter?