Tracking swimmers at Loughborough University

Bright Space Technologies has supplied a Telemetrics Fast Track camera system to help train the British swimmers at Loughborough University’s Centre of Sporting Excellence. The bare bones of that sentence though hardly do justice to a three year engineering project that has resulted in a 54 metre long wireless camera track mounted on the ceiling 8 metres above the pool and capable of operating at 6 metres per second.

Jointly funded by UK Sport and British Swimming, even so Colin Clarke, senior technical sales & support manager at Bright Space Technologies ruefully comments that Bright Space and Telemetrics have probably spent many more hours on the project than was profitable. But then, this was a good, old-fashioned engineering challenge: Clarke might be rueful but he’s also very proud of what has been achieved.

Initial discussions regarding a device that could track swimmers along the length of an Olympic Pool from above and video the nuances of their strokes took place in 2008, but were stymied by the speed requirement and the problems of creating a stable image. Olympic standard swimmers might ‘only’ (the word is used extremely advisedly) average about 3 metres/sec for the front crawl, but the initial dive and subsequent turning kicks can peak at 6 metres/sec. And the acceleration necessary created too great a snatch on the festoon of cables that would typically be used for a ceiling-mounted track.

Then, approximately 18 months ago, the chance of taking the whole thing wireless presented itself. “It took that length of time for the technology to catch up with the desire,” comments Clarke.”

The Telemetrics development team then spent considerable time researching and integrating power rails to derive a new way of providing the 48 Volt power for the trolley and at the correct current ramp to drive the system over the 54 metre long track, which it does using a power rail/brush system similar to those found on metro systems the world over. The camera – a Sony BRC-300 with SDI output housed in a polycarbonate shell – is controlled manually, and as Clarke says ‘”there are no cables for power, video or data.”

It is, as he puts it, “A lot more heavily engineered than was initially discussed,” but with visiting swimmers from other nations starting to see the system in action and making suitably interested noises, hopefully those hours of development could pay off yet.

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