TrackMan takes military radar out on the links

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TrackMan takes military radar out on the links

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TrackMan uses the Doppler radar principal to analyze the trajectory and distance of a golf ball. The Denmark based company focuses on developing and manufacturing radar systems to measure a ball’s flight in 3-D. [TRACKMAN]

Vedbaek, a small suburban neighborhood north of Copenhagen, is home to about 30,000 people. At first glance, there’s nothing special about the area, but its winding roads are home to the headquarters of TrackMan - a technology company that develops, manufactures and sells radar systems to track and record a ball in flight in 3-D.

This once-small company was thrust into the spotlight when it began incorporating increasingly advanced technologies into its products for the sporting industry - namely for professional golfers and baseball players.

The company was founded by golfing brothers Klaus and Morten Eldrup-Joergensen and radar engineer Fredrik Tuxen who saw the potential for a tracking system that measures the distance, rotation and speed of a golf ball.

“What first started out as an experiment that was conducted in my garage has now grown to a company with over 160 employees,” said CEO Klaus.

Klaus, who was once a professional golfer competing for Denmark, admitted to, “always wondering how a golf ball should be hit for it to maintain a straight trajectory.”

Amid the search for a data collection method to report real-time information, Klaus discovered a radar-tracking system used in the military in the 1960s.

“The technology incorporated is the Doppler radar principal, which is normally used to track down the projectile movement of missiles. In our case, the technology is being used in a peaceful manner,” he explained.

The tracking system collects numerous types of data including the trajectory and speed of the golf ball, the duration and degree of the spin, and the distance between shots.

Klaus admitted to having undergone multiple trials and errors to perfect the product as it was crucial for the system to be adaptable to track a small ball like the one used in golf, which has a circumference of just 4.2 centimeters (1.7 inches).

In 2008, the same technology was adapted for baseball as the flight patterns for both balls are similar. The data that the tracking system provided for baseball also included additional information, such as the distance outfield catchers ran in order to catch the ball and the batting speed of the pitcher.

TrackMan is often used in professional sports worldwide, with one of its most frequented clientele being golfers who play on the PGA Tour.

In baseball, over 30 different MLB teams in the United States use the TrackMan, as well as five teams in the KBO.

The company’s motto is “unleash the potential,” and the founders and employees of TrackMan embody this as they spend most of their time looking for new sports with business potential.

“Out of our 160 employees, 120 of them are dedicated to research and development,” said Klaus. “The R&D department is of the uttermost importance and thus requires the most investment.”

As technology and sports have become increasingly intertwined, companies like TrackMan have started popping up across the globe.

Another example is Hawk-Eye Innovations, a sports technology company that develops and delivers web-based officiating, broadcast and digital solutions for sports federations through a computer system used to track the trajectory of the ball and display its most likely path. The company, which first began in Britain in the early 2000s, has now grown into a company that employs over 400 workers.

BY KIM JI-HAN [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]

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