Drones and the future of motorsport

One Maltese start-up is going where no drone has gone before, shaping this evolving industry at a speed of no less than 200km/h

Inset: Nilsen Filc
Inset: Nilsen Filc

Hobbyists flying their drone over family picnics, quiet beaches and our heads have collectively hurt, somewhat unjustly, our perception of drones. Healthcare, agriculture, entertainment, and sports; we have yet to realise the many commercial and socially beneficial applications of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Drones won’t be delivering you, or your pizza just yet, but they are sure to play more important roles in your life in the near future. A local start-up is pushing drone technology to new frontiers.

Meet Nilsen Filc, a programmer, serial-entrepreneur and founder of Dronemail Aerospace & Cybernetics. Coming to Malta when the iGaming market was just kicking off, Filc fell in love with the island and never left, setting up a video game company soon after in his pursuit of “creating the best video game ever.”

Today his new enterprise is working hand-in-hand with global brands, leading manufacturers, sports champions and TV broadcasters to shape the ultimate all-weather, multi-purpose, high-performance electric drone system.

The latest campaign by GoPro for their new HERO9 camera features Filc’s footage of European windsurf champion, Martin Moller Hovda taking on some impressive waves in high seas. He is now working with Eurosport to substitute footage taken traditionally by helicopter, with Dronemail’s drones on a revolutionary electric race car championship format.

The next generation of motorsports

The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), the governing body of motorsports championships including Formula One, MotoGP and Rally cars, has adopted a forward-looking vision for this new era of Electric Vehicles (EVs). It wants to position the sport to be a laboratory of-sorts for sustainable and accessible mobility for all road users across the world – fostering technology the world critically needs right now.

New FIA recognised tournaments will create a platform for automobile manufacturers to develop and showcase their innovative technology. After Formula E, it will integrate Pure ETCR (Electric Touring Car Racing) next year and transform it into the Electric GT World Championship in 2023. You might know of the GT car category, as it gained world famous coverage with the iconic PlayStation racing game series Gran Turismo.

This year, Eurosport, Hyundai Motorsports, Cupra Racing, Romeo Ferraris have joined forces with Williams Advanced Engineering and Goodyear to produce and race the most powerful electric touring cars in existence. With over 900Nm of instant torque, those cars are no joke: the instant power delivery thanks to their electric motor and battery unlocks absurd accelerations.

Dronemail uses similar technology as the racing EVs, allowing it to keep up with these hyper cars and together with Eurosport, produce spectacular and immersive productions – the so-called “PlayStation perspective.”

The championship season is nearing its end and Filc is touring every track, from Vallelunga, Italy to Hungaroring, Hungary ,capturing impressive, close-up footage whilst recording his observations and safety procedures. He will be sharing these recommendations with the FIA for what will be their first official drone regulations in motorsports.   

Fast regulation means fast commercialisation

The industry is moving at a maddening pace, accelerated by the EU’s introduction of long-awaited drone legislation that came into effect on the 31st of December 2020. Compiled with the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), the regulator for all European air space in Europe, legislation has allowed for commercial drone operations to be held all across Europe, after the necessary thorough risk assessments. Today the global commercial drone market is projected to reach the size of around $58.4 billion as soon as 2026.

Malta’s ability to act quickly made it one of the first European countries to implement the new legislation back in January - allowing the Maltese start-up to be one of the first commercial and certified drone operator in the European skies. Filc plans to move on to manufacturing and selling his designed and built in-house drones and is working with Malta Enterprise to set up-shop in Malta, once again.

And like a true entrepreneur, he speculates what combining his history in building digital automated systems and love for drones can possibly lead to, and what it could ultimately mean for Malta.

Once again Nilsen finds himself in the emergence of a new disruptive technology, but this time he gets to experience his own version of Gran Turismo. He’s confident that this is the best game he’s played so far.

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