HD Downlink Uses COFDM Transmitter to Provide Reliable Long-Range Signal Stability

UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA, JUNE 29, 2015 – When the world’s best golfers converged on  the  Chambers  Bay  golf  course  in  Washington  state  for  the  115th  U.S.  Open, Integrated Microwave Technologies (IMT), a leader in advanced digital microwave systems  serving  the  broadcast,  sports,  entertainment  and  law  enforcement  markets, saw its microLite HD Transmitter soaring high above the green. Mounted on a UAV, the transmitter helped Helivideo Productions provide unprecedented coverage of the championship tournament for FOX Sports.

Eric Austin, owner and operator of Helivideo Productions, a premier provider of FAA-approved  cinematography  services  for  television  and  film, turned  to  IMT’s microLite system  after  previous  attempts  to  achieve  UAV  shots  with  other  manufacturers’ equipment were unsuccessful. “Prior to using the microLite, we were unable to maintain a reliable signal for this type of application,” he says. “Using a drone for golf coverage is especially challenging, and the microLite system has worked great. It allowed us to fly at low altitudes and hover behind sand dunes and sand traps while maintaining a solid signal. The microLite is a game changer for UAV-based broadcasts.”

For the tournament coverage, Austin and his team of licensed pilots flew a Panasonic GH4 and Black Magic 4K camera on two different types of drones, one for recording on the camera and another for the live HD broadcast feeds. This marked the first use of live HD footage from a UAV or drone for a sports telecast.  

Austin and his production team positioned the UAVs over Puget Sound, focusing them on  capturing  coverage  of  holes  16,  17  and  18.  Later  in the  week,  team  members stationed themselves throughout the course in the early morning to capture footage of some of the players from a distance. In order to comply with the FAA’s standards, the UAV  had  to  remain  at  least  500-feet  away  from  spectators,  a  significant  challenge. Employing a high-quality COFDM transmitter was the only viable solution, as it supports long ranges and is not restricted by line-of-sight limitations.

“We are excited to work with Helivideo, as the microLite is an ideal application for UAV video operations,” says John Payne IV, CTO, Integrated Microwave Technologies. “The robust COFDM technology of the microLite makes it extremely reliable, which allowed the drone to capture video without line-of-sight requirements at various low altitudes. The ability to capture this aerial view gave viewers a unique perspective of this event.”

IMT’s microLite features superb H.264 HD encoding capabilities, and operates in the standard 2k DVB-T COFDM mode. The H.264 video encoder supports Part 10 of the H.264 standard, providing a 30-percent bit-rate reduction or video-quality improvement compared to encoders that only support the H.264 baseline profile.

Each model features user-friendly control panels, and is the perfect companion to IMT’s Direct View handheld monitor/receiver, which was also used throughout the tournament. Direct  View  is  specially  designed  to  be  used  without  a sunshade  in  bright  sunlight making it perfect for this application. Used together, the microLite and the Direct VU combine to form a complete transmitter and receiver link in the field. The ability to view footage  captured  above  from  a  ground  position is invaluable  to  any  UAV  broadcast application,  as  it  guarantees  production  team  members  are  getting  the  shots  they require.