With the launch window during high tide lasting only two hours and a certain safety margin of water depth necessary, it is vital that the distances flown are measured quickly – and with big prize money and prestige at stake – accurately.
This year’s International Bognor Birdman will employ the most advanced technology provided by Leaderboard Ltd, with bespoke software enabling real-time display of wind speed and direction, and fast reporting of time in the air and distance flown.
Each Aviator in the Leonardo da Vinci and Condor Class is tracked during flight using triangulation software and a low powered laser which reflects off the wing or prominent uppermost surface of the aircraft. On splashdown the distance from the nearest point of the take-off edge of the launch platform is recorded to the nearest 0.5 metres. Time in the air is measured to the nearest 10th of a second.
In addition to the giant electronic scoreboard keeping competitors and public up to date, there is a wind sock on the launch platform and a separate indicator display showing wind speed and direction to help pilots judge their best moment to take off.
Fliers in the serious classes accumulate points over both days and prizes are awarded for the most points gained through flying the furthest distances. Touching the water before splashdown does not count against the competitor. The distances flown is what matters in this unique competition.
A cash prize is also available for the flier who stays in the air the longest, regardless of distance flown. In 1999 for the first time this was not awarded for the furthest flight as might normally be expected, and this has heralded the appearance of aircraft designed to trade forward momentum for lift, giving the ability to ‘hang’ in the air longer.