Drone racing is conquering the world
Drone racing and its mesmerizing “First Person View” (FPV) has been growing to increasingly professional proportions. In the US, the Drone Racing League (DRL) has formed and around the world it seems this new sports trend is becoming unstoppable. Even a first Grand Prix has already taken place in Dubai.
In July 2015 the Drone Racing League organized an event in an abandoned power plant in New York. The drones were equipped with light-emitting diodes and raced through corridors, corners and gates - also marked with light. High quality video carried the whole thing on the internet. Around the same time the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) was founded to rank pilots worldwide.
Get in the cockpit
Drones are flown at speeds up to 80 mph over demanding courses. Using cameras these quadcopters transmit images during the flight directly to video glasses worn by the pilot. These drivers have only one view: as if they are sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft and controlling the vehicle at dizzying heights through a race corridor. The task is to complete the course, fly through gates and avoid obstacles.
“A break from reality”
“We call it FPV therapy,” says Heather McDowell, one of the pilots, about the feeling that comes when controlling the drones. “Because when you fly you can’t think about anything else happening in your life. All you can think about is precisely this moment and what you have just done. It’s a break from reality.”
Conquering the globe
One of the first major professional events of international caliber was held in Dubai in March 2016 where the competition winner took home a whopping $250,000 in prize money. Featuring both private and sponsored pilots, the first day had some some technical problems to overcome but by the end everything was working smoothly, while impressive light shows and live streams made the tournament a sporting success.
Open to all
The airborne spectacle still remains open to new pilots even at the professional levels. In less than a year as the sport become more serious, the drone racing standings have seen big fluctuations. And the reason is because the conditions and capabilities needed to be successful are changing rapidly. There are few people who have flown drones for more than two or three years so racing experience is not so widespread. That means, with enough training a rookie pilot could become one of the best in the world. That will likely change slowly but surely, but right now a rapid rise up in the rankings is still quite possible.