Record-breaking eagle flight from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – enabled by HUBER+SUHNER technology
The world record attempt by an endangered Imperial Eagle flying from the top of the highest building in the world involved the use of HUBER+SUHNER technology to help record the feat.
Staged in March 2015, the aim of the event was not just to set a world record but also to raise awareness of the plight of these magnificent endangered birds and, at the same time to record dazzling images for the BBC to broadcast world-wide. The eagle, known as Darshan, flew 828 meters down to his owner from the top of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, recording unique pictures for BBC News. The project was organized by Freedom Conservation and initiated by Jacques-Olivier Travers, who set up the Wings of Freedom project supported by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. With a number of connectivity challenges, HUBER+SUHNER’s local representative in the Middle East, Optimal Connectivity LLC, was on hand to provide specialist technology support.
Meeting the challenge
From early planning stages Optimal Connectivity LLC was able to help with the design of special lightweight TV equipment that was to be carried by the eagle. Using HUBER+SUHNER solutions Dr. Michael Gnoth from Optimal Connectivity developed all the specialist connections required.
A number of different antenna models were created and tested with the help of three drones which the project team used to simulate possible flight situations. After successful initial trials the team continued tests of camera and transmitter equipment and antennas from the 160th floor of Burj Khalifa.
For each of the two eagles, named Darshan and Victor, Optimal Connectivity prepared made-to-measure RF cable assemblies using SMA connectors and Enviroflex 178 for the tail feathers and Enviroflex 316 from the beginning of the tail to the transmitter. A vet from the Falcon Clinic was involved in this process and attached the cable assemblies to the feathers of the eagles.
Creative combinations of technology
In order to guarantee the capture of the live video signals from the eagle, the project team decided to use several antennas and also opted for four Cobham 8-channel mil-grade receivers. The team distributed 16 HUBER+SUHNER (SPA-5600/40/14/0/V) antennas over the entire area and on top of two neighboring buildings. This was to ensure that the RF signal would be received whatever the circumstances, even if the eagle decided to swoop and circle around Burj Khalifa. The HUBER+SUHNER antennas with high gain and an opening angle of 40 degrees proved extremely suitable for the application. A total of 16 staff manually tracked the flight path of the eagle during each flight.
RF cables (RG 223 with BNC, N and SMA connectors) were used to transmit the signals, but – since the distances between the locations of the 16 antennas varied between 20m and 1km – for half the antenna sites the RF signal had to be transformed into fiber optic signals using FO transceivers. At the receiving end the fiber optic signals were converted back to become RF signals.
HUBER+SUHNER's fiber optic cable (24-24E9/W(ZN)Y-G50) was robust enough to run 60m vertically down from one of the buildings without the need for additional strain relief. It also crossed the entrance of two underground car parks without mechanical support and 200m of the cable was submerged for two weeks in water fountains. Thanks to the RADOX jacket material this did not cause any problems.
The fiber cable was terminated with SC/APC pigtails and SC/APC adaptors, with a large number of Single Mode patch cords (60 m) also used. In addition to the SC connectors the engineers had to manage many different formats, including LC, ST and FC connectors to connect different interfaces to other equipment like the outside broadcast vans of the broadcast companies and to at least 20 video walls inside and outside the world's biggest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall.
The world record and its main player Darshan was observed by a helicopter equipped with a professional studio grade transmitter with the signals being received by an aeronautical antenna. Eight HUBER+SUHNER RF cables led the signals from eight antennas of the aeronautical antenna to the respective receivers.
Seamless communications and a successful flight
Recorded live, the successful stunt was widely broadcast with stunning images. Darshan is now a world celebrity and the record has been claimed for the “highest-ever recorded bird flight from a man-made structure.” The project team and technology specialists were able to prove that radio and fiber technologies can inter-operate seamlessly to support the success of such major and challenging events under extreme conditions. Live HD wireless transmission is possible even from birds during flight, soaring with the eagles seamlessly communicating with the earth.
A key element for the success of the project was the ability to use the highest quality passive components from HUBER+SUHNER. With the extremely positive global feedback from this event we are now looking forward to new and greater challenges!