This is a guest post from drone enthusiast Delon Anthony over at MyDroneChoice.com. With the rise in popularity of drone racing (seriously, turn on ESPN Sunday nights), I had to have someone discuss it. Delon knows a thing or two on the subject of drone racing. Here’s a little about him: “My name is Delon Anthony, and I am crazy about quadcopters. Really, what’s not to love? I suggest you visit our site, buy a quadcopter, and fulfill what you’re missing in life.”You dash around the race track at breathtaking speed, passing through gates and maneuvering around tight turns. The excitement is swirling through your body; there is just one lap remaining. You go into the final lap in first place, sure about your victory. Suddenly, you collide into the track. Everything is over. Luckily, you have not suffered any injuries. You were racing using a quadcopter, seeing the race track via a real-time feed from its on-board camera.
The Rise of Drone Racing
As with all motorsports, drone racing began as an underdog sport. Pilots customized their drones, modifying them for maneuverability and speed (with the the cost of sturdiness and safety). It all began only ten years earlier, with RC airplanes. Users attached cameras to the planes, utilizing them to record and upload footage to the internet. It slowly started to gain traction…
Once drones became more sophisticated, the majority of RC plane pilots decided to utilize drones for this purpose. Early on, however, budget was a key issue. Only people with the desire and money managed to afford modified drones appropriate for racing.
As popularity has risen, the pastime is becoming more and more affordable. Almost anybody who has the passion and time can hit the track. Cameras have shrunken, and are now light and small enough to mount onto a quadcopter without giving up any maneuverability or speed. Once first-person view goggles became accessible to everyone, the sport of drone racing exploded.
TheHighTechHobbyist’s Note: Although the costs of drone racing have been steadily decreasing, they are still somewhat pricey. For a real quadcopter built for racing, it’ll put you back anywhere from $200 to $1,000. That’s without FPV goggles, which will cost another $300.
Drone Racing Technology
The two primary elements of drone racing process are a drone and FPV goggles. First-person view goggles allow the operator to feel like he/she is in the seat of the drone’s cockpit. The real-time video stream is passed from quadcopter to operator; this allows pilots to make split-second, sharp turns without a problem.
One of the biggest hurdle’s for drone racing is the lag of the FPV feed. Even the slightest lag can be dangerous racing at such high speeds. Rather than using high-quality digital signal, quadcopter racers utilize an analog signal. It does not deliver the clearest picture, but it is much quicker compared to its counterpart. Analog transponders also benefit in lower weight compared with the bulky digital transponders. This is essential, with every additional gram of payload hindering the speed of the drone.
TheHighTechHobbyist’s Note: In higher quality models the lag from quadcopter to FPV goggles is less than 20 milliseconds. Cheap models can have much higher lag. This is one aspect of drone racing you don’t want to go cheap on.
In the very beginning, drone racing competitions were just for fun and excitement. As popularity grew, wealthy individuals and companies realized the potential of the hobby, and began organizing drone races with cash rewards. The World Organization of Racing Drone (WORD) has introduced the brand-new World Drone Prix, with a prize pool of $1,000,000.
TheHighTechHobbyist’s Note: Drone racing has become so popular, some NFL owners have taken interest.
In the United States, drone racing competitions are popping up everywhere. The competitions are held in places such as the Miami Dolphins stadium. The racing tracks are 3D, creating races fun to watch. Pilots must steer clear of challenges: dodging under bars, zipping though gates, making split-second turns; all of which while flying at speeds up to 70 mph (113 kph).
Unlike other motorsports, drone racing is accessible to almost anyone. Beginner race kits, consisting of an assembled drone and a set of first-person view goggles, can be bought for a couple hundred dollars. You can race anywhere outside or maybe in an abandoned building. A professional racing track is not required to enjoy this hobby. Our drone buying guide outlines the commercially available drone models suitable for offsite racing.
This hobby turned professional sport is quickly gaining popularity. Media coverage is increasing (as well as the hundreds of racing videos on YouTube). It’s simple to understand the fundamentals, and also exciting to pilot and watch the drones. Mark my words, you may soon find yourself watching the International Drone Gran Prix on your local sports channel.
TheHighTechHobbyist’s Note: Wondering where to get started if you’re interested in becoming a drone racing pilot? Visit TheDroneRacingLeague.com to find local groups that can assist you. To see if drone racing is something you may be interested in, head on over to Amazon and grab this drone (pictured below) for around $80 that gives you an idea of what the more expensive drones may feel like.
Thanks to Delon Antony for this great post. You can visit him over at MyDroneChoice.com as well as his Facebook page to see drone reviews, tips, and more! What’s your opinion on drone racing? Is it the sport of the future? Let me know in the comments!