Aerospace gadgets let BMX riders soar

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Ground-breaking aerospace technology is being used to help top BMX riders fly around the track.

Engineers at BAE Systems in Lancashire are working with the Great Britain Cycling Team’s BMX squad to adapt hardware previously used in unmanned aircraft trials to improve riders’ performance.

British BMX ride Tre Whyte (centre) with engineers from BAE Systems. From left:  Lewis Johnson, Ben Layland, Zsolt Hutz and Matt Web-Martin. Photo: onEdition Picture

British BMX ride Tre Whyte (centre) with engineers from BAE Systems. From left: Lewis Johnson, Ben Layland, Zsolt Hutz and Matt Web-Martin. Photo: onEdition Picture

The project utilises cutting-edge optical sensor technology, originally developed for the “sense and avoidance” system from an unmanned aircraft demonstrator.

The sensors interact with miniature LEDs fixed to the BMX bikes to track the trajectory of the riders while on the ground and in the air.

This information is then relayed to a specially-designed app, giving riders and coaches a read-out of performance, enabling them to identify where they can save vital fractions of a second.

The move is part of BAE Systems’ eight-year research partnership with the UK Sport organisation.

British BMX rider Liam Phillips said: “In an elite sport such as BMX, where riders are travelling around 40kph and spending more than 40 per cent of the race in the air, every millisecond counts, and one imperfection of your form can put you at a disadvantage.

“This new technology from BAE Systems will revolutionise the way we train, allowing us to analyse our techniques with a new-found precision and helping us shave off valuable fractions of a second.”

Kelvin Davies, BAE Systems Technology Partnership lead, said: “We are excited to see how this cutting-edge sensory hardware is able to influence the race strategy of the Great Britain Cycling Team’s BMX squad.

“Technology and innovation is at the heart of BAE Systems, and we are proud of the contribution we make to help our athletes in their pursuit of marginal gains.”

Simon Timson, Director of Performance at UK Sport, said: “Medals will be hard won in Rio next year, but access to BAE Systems’ expertise, where their engineers are applying cutting edge technology to improve our athletes’ training and performance, will prove invaluable.

“The UK’s athletes and coaches are working hard to make the nation proud in Rio, as they did in London, and it’s fantastic to have the best of British engineering, thanks to BAE Systems, backing them.”

BAE Systems is currently working with UK Sport, and their science, medicine and technology arm, the English Institute of Sport, as their Official Research and Innovation Partner – helping to support British sports and athletes ahead of major competitions such as Rio 2016.

In August 2013, the company – which employs 18,000 engineers – announced the beginning of the second phase of this partnership which has already benefitted more than 20 different Olympic and Paralympic sports and 140 athletes since its conception in 2008.