Drone racing is a sport where drone pilots fly around a designated course as fast as possible (over 50 miles per hour).
Because drone racing is ultimately about speed, pilots try to build drones that are extremely fast and agile multi-rotors (drones). Virtually all drone races now are done using FPV (First Person View) systems, which means that when pilots fly, they only see what the drone sees. “First Person” is the first person who is the pilot, who is viewing the race from his “cockpit” (FPV monitor or goggles). This means that FPV is a type of drone flying where pilots use cameras to fly drones as if they were sitting in the cockpit. Drones (typically small radio-controlled aircraft or quadcopters), are equipped with cameras, which means that the pilots are wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drones, with the camera mounted on the nose of the drone. Whereas some pilots fly using FPV monitors, others use specialized FPV goggles to give them a more vivid and realistic experience.
Air gates are what most drone races use as obstacles to keep drone pilots on the track. They are usually three to six feet in diameter and shaped like a half circle. Some races will also use tall flags to signify turns and slaloms. Other forms of track guidance include: cones, rope lighting, arrows, tires, trees, etc.
Whereas FPV flying was originally done using RC Planes (radio-controlled planes), in more recent times, multi-rotor drones have surpassed them in popularity. Most pilots have recently found these multi-rotor drones to be significantly more stable, easier to fly, and more agile than RC planes.
In the last few years, FPV drones that used to be much smaller than what was considered the standard, have found that the smaller size has allowed them to be even more maneuverable than before, while at the same time also able to fit through tighter spaces and withstand crashes better. It is not surprising, therefore, that these mini FPV drones have continued to be popular.
The Drone Racing League (DRL) makes all of the drones that are used in its events, in-house. Instead of the pilots purchasing their drones independently, they are supplied with drones, backup drones, and parts from the league itself.
Although any drone can be used to race, competitive FPV racing leagues do require drones to meet certain standards.
The specifications are produced by the community, which is defined by MultiGP. This allows participants to supply their own drones, which naturally increases competitiveness and innovation. For competition, aircraft are typically separated into classes, thus separating winged craft from rotorcraft, and also categorizing by size and power.
DR1 Racing, which is for profit, is a televised racing series where pilots must maintain their own gear, with various races and formats airing on television. The six episode inaugural season had episodes viewed at different times on Eurosport, CBS, Fox Sports, Discovery Channel, beIN, and Twitch.tv.
The 2020 FanDuel DRL SIM Racing Cup, will feature 12 elite DRL pilots competing on the DRL SIM, the true-to-life drone racing simulator, across eight events, for the chance to be crowned the series’ Champion. And what makes this extra special is that all the money will go to support Covid-19 relief. This money will go specifically for Direct Relief to get protective gear for frontline workers.
Drone experts celebrate the progress in drone racing within a short time. Racing is already starting to take off, but drone experts also believe that the progression in drone racing is still in its infancy stage. There is tremendous room to grow!