Drones are quietly taking over.
At first, you may have only heard about the military using drones. Then drones were reportedly being used to spy on people. Then businesses decided they could use drones for delivery purposes. Now that consumers have gotten their hands on drones, they use them for so many reasons like taking panoramic photos and videos.
But there’s a growing subculture of drone enthusiasts that have taken drones into the competitive sports arena of racing. And just as the uses for drones have evolved, so have the drones themselves. Gone are the days of looking up to the sky to figure out if your drone was doing what you wanted it to do and enter the era of the first-person view (FPV) drone races.
If you’re unfamiliar with how FPV drone racing works, the pilot wears goggles that feeds them video provided by a camera that they’ve mounted on the drone to deliver a first-person point of view. Given that some drones can achieve speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, it takes considerable practice to develop the skill not to become disoriented and to be able to navigate your drone smoothly.
The races themselves can be exhilarating, not just for the flyer, but for hobbyists and spectators who enjoy attending the events.
Seven Reasons Every Drone Enthusiast Is Anticipating An FPV Drone Race
To See What Drones Have Been Built
Drones can be bought ready to fly out of the box, but true drone lovers like nothing more than to build their drones from scratch. Budgets can be blown as an FPV drone that meets league requirements can cost up to $2,000 to develop properly. Hours can be spent customizing, repairing, wiring, and tweaking to create the perfect drone.
Competitive drone racers like to strip their drones down to the bare minimum to build a drone that’s not only light and fast but can withstand inevitable crashes and keep going. Depending on the engineering skills, the drone’s frame, battery distribution, and flight control system can be customized to suit the pilot’s needs.
Enthusiasts like to attend the drone races to see just what the latest tinkering results at the hands of these experts have produced.
The Spirit Of Competitiveness
People love racing of any kind. That’s why there’s everything from horse racing, camel racing, boat racing, car racing–if a vehicle exists, there’s probably a race for it. Enthusiasts want to see, not only who built or has the best drone, but do you have the skills to put it through its paces and pull off a victory?
How Intricate Is The Track?
Drones can easily be raced around in a circle, but the races that draw audiences have tracks made out of various materials, can be set indoors or outdoors, and have obstacles and lights that bring tracks you may have thought only existed in a video game to life.
Drones have to fly through neon shapes, dodge fire, over water, and points can be lost if the pilot can’t keep their machine on the center of the track.
What good is developing the fastest drone and becoming an expert at FPV drone racing if you don’t have a track that can prove that both you and your drone are the best? For pilots to showcase how capable they are, race developers have created tracks that put their skills to the test.
Every new race challenges the creators to build tracks that are bigger, badder, and more mind-blowing than the last. Pilots look forward to showing they can dominate these tracks and it’s exciting for spectators watching both the successes and the crashes.
FPV drone racing is gaining such popularity, that teams and pilots can even win serious prize money. The days of tinkering around with your drone at home and developing the skills necessary to fly a drone in first person view could finally pay off.
FPV drone racing is growing so rapidly in popularity and drawing the eyes of sponsors around the world.
In 2016, the first World Drone Prix competition was held in Dubai with $$$ on the line in prize money. Needless to say, it drew some of the world’s best pilots, and this is the kind of competition enthusiasts, and even casual followers of the hobby can get excited about.
Prizes for the Grand Prix were broken up into different categories:
- Best constructor (for the build your own experts)
- Best lap time
- Best track team
- Best freestyle team
The World Grand Prix set the stage for more global competitions of that scale to follow. With FPV drone racing’s constant evolution of bigger contests and prizes, some competitors can make enough money to become professional racers.
The U.S. National Drone Racing Championship in July 2016 awarded $10,000 in prize money to the winner and the World Drone Racing Championship held in October 2016 gave away $100,000 to the victors of various competitions.
The Drone Racing League was able to drum up $12 million in financing from major names like the owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, and music artist, Matt Bellamy.
Significant amounts of money being invested in FPV drone racing is helping to draw the sport out from the underground and into the mainstream. Investors realize that the estimated number of 40 million fans is only expected to grow as these competitive events become larger and grow in notoriety.
Finding out how much money the winners can walk away with serves to draw attention to and build up the buzz and expectation for these races.
A Sense Of Community
If you’re a drone enthusiast, what better place to “geek out” over the latest drone developments than at an FPV drone race with your fellow fanatics? The racing events provide the perfect platform to connect with like-minded individuals and find out what’s next on the horizon for the sport.
In between racing “heats,” many pilots gather with fans, friends, coaches, and sponsors to re-watch and take apart the videos of the race to figure out what to improve. Despite the prize money, many racing competitors are still friendly towards one another and even give each other advice and tips. Newcomers are welcomed and encouraged as many seek to grow the sport.
Even if you’re unable to attend a race in person, the drone racing community has a strong online presence. When the Drone Racing League had their first race in January 2016, close to 900,000 people watched the competition live, proving that the races have a strong following.
Drone racing communities have been growing in numbers on YouTube and Facebook and winning pilots typically answer messages they receive via social media. This feeling of inclusiveness helps to draw spectators and build anticipation for the races.
Keeping Up With Tech
The tech for FPV drone racing continues to improve as drones become lighter and faster, goggles transmit sharper video feed, and controls are designed to become more responsive and sensitive to touch. Going to a race is a great way for drone lovers to see the latest developments in the advances of the tech they love and how it can impact the future.
Could physical controls end up being eliminated completely? The University of Florida had a racing demonstration where brain-machines were used to maneuver the drones.
Drone racing could actually be leading the way in technological advances in the way that car racing influenced improvements in standard automobiles. It’s possible that as drone racers figure out how to craft their machines into faster and more maneuverable works of art, they could be solving problems faced in the aeronautical industry.
Learning about these technological advances, witnessing the improvements being made, and hearing about the impact the engineering and crafting of drones could have on a larger scale serve to drive up the excitement surrounding FPV drone races.
Just like in any race, there can be some pretty gnarly wipeouts during FPV drone races. Although people like to watch the speed with which these drones are maneuvered around the track, waiting for the crashes heightens the anticipation for the spectators.
With the speed and skill involved, some liken drone racing to having an Indy car in the air, but without having to worry about the life of the driver when there’s a collision or malfunction.
Even though they may have spent hours honing their drone to perfection and practicing how to achieve flight perfection, some pilots still get nervous when they are actually in the competition. The slightest twitching, trembling, or shaky hands could get picked up by the controls and lead to a crash.