I am one of the founders of the hobby of drone racing in the small city where I live. For being such a tiny place, we actually had more than a few people with drones. Maybe it had a lot to do with the fact that we lived close to a majestic nature that everybody wanted to see on video. North of our town was a hill that gave way into a nice valley that ended in the forest that looked entirely magical, that’s for sure.
Everybody that lived in the small town respected the valley and the nature around us, we all knew the rules, written and unspoken about caring for the valley. But also we didn’t miss an opportunity at making the most out of it. It was a wide space, so it wasn’t rare that during the weekend a handful of families would go out for picnics, teenagers would go out to play sports and young and old couples would take romantic walks around. Still, there was even more space.
After being one of the firsts to get a drone, I got really involved in the culture of it. And as soon as I noticed many neighbors had drones as well, it was only logical that the idea of drone racing would pop in my mind. So I got a few friends together, and we discussed the plan. At first, we were very humble about it. You know, a few of us get together, and we have to race around the valley, the fastest to finish a few circles around it wins. But, who could blame us, we got a little more creative.
This means that suddenly I was director of our very own Local Drone Racing League. And we were starting with a full-on championship. For three weekends we would go up to the valley and race until one of us reigned champion. However, it was still a sort of improvised, unofficial thing. So we had to be extra creative, now that we had started it. The results were often quite hilarious.
The first week was somewhat messy. There were around five of us that morning setting up the strangest goals and challenges for our course. There were a few chairs piled up, a tall umbrella stuck in the ground, our country’s flag, more chairs, and more umbrellas. The idea was to race our drones following the course, obliged to round once each object, go under the umbrella and the one to reach the flag first won. However, the reality wasn’t quite like that.
We found that one of us wasn’t great at taking turns and knocked into every single goal. Halfway through one of the mountains of chairs collapsed, an umbrella fell, and a little kid threw a paper plane at the flag and was crowned the winner for the day. I was kneeling on the ground laughing uncontrollably by the time we finished.
Week number two was a little better. Since we all lived in that city and we had family and friends around, we convinced a handful of our loved ones to stand at certain points and hold out flags that would represent our goals. Again, we were supposed to race, round the goals and reach the flag first place. But we were kind of betrayed. It turns out that our loved ones found our hobby somewhat hilarious and were prepared for sabotage.
Without fail, on every goal, the person holding the flag, that usually was just a t-shirt, would start waving the thing, making it impossible for us to complete the course accordingly. My niece that was holding up the flag for the finish line started running around as the drones messily followed. I’m not sure if anybody finished that race.
The last one was slightly better. By then there were more than ten participants. And our friends and family felt so bad for the embarrassing drone championship that they helped us make proper goals. We bought a bunch of hula hoops, and those rings we connected to tall sticks that we stuck on the ground around the valley. The result was a pretty convincing drone racing course. Also, by this point, the whole city became involved, we had an audience!
It looked spectacular, hopeful, official. Some participants had their families cheering for them, and some got special t-shirts, we got together to buy a small plastic trophy for the winner, it was serious business. Then, finally, the race started. More than ten drones up and flying like they were supposed to. Not all of us had the most advanced devices. Less than half of the group had googles to watch through the drone in first person view. And I’m sure there was something like a handmade drone moving around. It was crazy.
But it was so much fun! It was enjoyable, our neighbors were cheering, kids were running behind the drones, and the goals stood still this time! We were still not the most skilled of pilots. A lot of times the drones knocked on the goals and particularly, more than once, I was first and then last place and back again.
The fair champion of the game actually was my best friend! He was so happy he lost his glasses and almost crashed his drone. Truthfully, it was a little bit more fun that time a little kid with a paper plane won the race. But we actually did it! We started our local championship in drone racing. I’m sure the tradition will last long.