MotoGP Celebrates 30 Years of Onboard Race Camera Technology

SEE THE VIDEO: Randy Mamola raced with MotoGP's first onboard camera at the 1985 Dutch GP.

The 2015 TT Assen race marks the 30th anniversary of onboard technology in the MotoGP World Championship.

In 1985, the Dutch GP saw race-winner Randy Mamola ride the first GP bike equipped with an onboard camera, providing some never-before-seen live footage. After this first experiment, Dorna Sports SL keenly invested in onboard technology in order to enhance the sport's television coverage when the company acquired the rights to the series in 1992. The technology was outsourced at first, but Dorna went on to set up its own R&D team to develop custom-made cameras for the premier motorcycling championship.

Dorna Sports SL always worked closely with the manufacturers involved in the sport in order to make the onboard systems an integral part of the bikes, first with a specific agreement with the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers’ Association (MSMA) in 1998 stating that the bikes should feature such cameras, and then in subsequent years by adapting the package to the needs of the manufacturers as technology evolved.

The miniaturization of the onboard camera system was the first major undertaking of Dorna when it started its own R&D operation in 2002, due to increasingly compact bikes & the demands of a sport where trying to cut weight from every component is common practice.

Having reduced the weight and volume of the cameras by half from 2002 to 2006, Dorna was able to deploy more cameras per bike. The partnership with Vislink/Gigawave from 2003 was instrumental in this, allowing four cameras instead of two.

Various technical refinements were introduced seamlessly over the years, with breakthroughs such as the switch from analog to digital transmission in 2007, overcoming the limitations of beaming the video signal from the bikes to the TV production units through an helicopter relay. This ensured complete coverage including in poor weather, under a tunnel or from the boxes.

The introduction of the data module in 2008 to transmit bike telemetry and actuate servos to operate the cameras paved the way for the introduction of the gyroscopic camera in 2010, providing unequalled immersion in the sport to further highlight the impressive lean angle reached by the best riders.

In recent years, the major shift in onboard technology was the jump from SD to HD resolution, Dorna being the first to bring 1080i video live from a bike in 2011. This provided crystal clear images by taking advantage of the first HD onboard lenses developed by Fujifilm and gave an unparalleled level of detail to the MotoGP broadcast, bringing the audiences even closer to the riders' experience.

After this major evolution, Dorna Sports replicated the approach it took in the early days of its onboard camera R&D project, focusing again on the miniaturization of its new HD system before tackling new challenges to improve the TV broadcast. One of the latest innovations is the impressive 360-degree gyroscopic camera that provides breathtaking chase action and dramatic panning from a given rider to another subject, all with a system 17 times lighter than the very first onboard camera system used on Randy Mamola's bike 30 years ago!

That single camera system used back in 1985 has spawned a wide array of cameras, which culminates this weekend with the deployment of no less than one hundred onboard cameras over all three World Championship classes.