As if flying a drone wasn’t difficult enough, you can add to the complication by becoming a drone racer. It’s a competitive sport that is sweeping the nation and invading privacy wherever possible. In fact, we view drone racing as the ‘legitimate’ way to cross the boundaries between public and restricted airspace and from the US to Mexico. But that’s a different topic for a different blog at a different time. This time around we will focus on the ‘good’ parts of drone racing.
1 – What The Heck Is Drone Racing?
Well, it is you and your drone racing through a course to see who can finish first. The difference here is that you are controlling your drone in such a way that it is doing the actual racing – and sometimes brutal collision – while you get to stand or sit and watch the activity unfold from the ground. If you are an FPV racer, that’s a whole different can of worms in the drone racing world.
2 – Alright, I’ll Bite. What is FPV Racing?
We’re glad you asked. It saved us on dropping additional hints. The FPV in FPV racing stands for ‘first-person video,’ and it is the fancy term used to describe drone racing where you use the camera on board your drone as your ‘eyes’ on the course you are trying to get through without breaking international trade sanctions and possibly winning a race. Well, that’s the theory.
3 – Isn’t FPV Some Kind Of Freak Show?
Not really. If you are a pilot participating in an FPV race, you will be sitting with the other racers. All of you will be wearing head-mounted displays that will provide you with a live stream from the camera on your drone. This makes FPV racing a lot more challenging and fun. Well, fun in the way that winning against other racers in a sort of freak show can be called fun.
4 – How Long Has Drone Racing Been Going On?
Finally, a question that has a great answer to it. FPV drone racing started in 2014 in Australia and New Zealand. Only down there they called it Rotorcross, which is a far sexier name than FPV regardless of how you use it. FPV has become popular in North America and as a result, has actually led to the formation of formal racing leagues and organizations that host races.
5 – Can You Tell Me More About These Drone Racing Leagues?
Yah, we can. Known simply as DRL, the Drone Racing League promotes itself as a sports and media company. We think that is so that it can promote its own events and draw attention from other, smaller leagues. That’s just speculation on our part as you probably had never heard about the DRL until about 15-seconds ago. The league is as legit as the NFL, not the XFL.
More On The Mechanics Behind The DRL
The DRL takes drone racing seriously. It’s so intense about the entire sport (or hobby) that they basically control the main competitions that exist. Sure, you may be able to find a smaller, regional league near where you are, and that may be the best fit for you. However, if you are not a pansy drone racer, you will want to get out and play with the big, bad boys of the DRL.
They Host A Global Race Series
This is the real deal. The DRL is responsible for a global drone race series that ends with something called the World Championship. While we sort of expected a much more colorful name than that, you still get the idea that this race event is for all the marbles – provided you haven’t lost yours in any of the steps leading up to it.
The Pre-Season Gates Of Hell
As we said, these drone pilots are a pretty serious bunch. The first major competition of the year is the Pre-Season Gates of Hell. It features a concrete steampunk chamber and drone pilots high on chocolate. Okay, we added the last part. The whole idea of the concrete chamber is to test the skills of the pilots brave – or stupid – enough to enter and fly around aimlessly.
Did we mention we thought the names would be a bit ballsier? Well, the first level of racing features a three-dimensional course. There’s a qualifying round, semi-final races and the final. The goal here is to separate the wannabes from the seriously deranged drone racers. In some cases, it is to separate drone racers from their drones. This level accomplishes all those feats.
As you can imagine, the next notch up the ladder is going to be a tad more difficult. In fact, races at this level typically take place at a huge outdoor venue that is loaded with obstacles that would make Han Solo wish he had an FPV drone to fly rather than the Millennium Falcon. It’s that intense and out of this world – hence the cheesy Star Wars reference we tossed in.
Levels 3, 4 and 5
It only makes sense that you would follow Level 2 with Levels 3 and beyond. The same basic premise is the same, and these are drone racing levels. The only difference is that the level of difficulty also increases with each higher level. These are so hard that as far as we’re concerned if you pass Level 5, they should just award you with the Championship, but they won’t.
The DRL Is The Only Place Where They Make Their Own Rules
Essentially, pilots can pick up a number of ‘bonus’ points depending on the accomplishments they achieve on any given course. There are extra points awarded for completing a course under the established time limit, and as each race features numerous heats, a good pilot can collect a few points. A poor pilot is probably still working his shift at Wal-Mart on race day.
It’s Also Not The Easiest Group To Join
If you thought to become a Mason or getting sponsored as a prospective new member in your local Rotary Club was a major feat, these are actually far easier to join than the DRL. No, there is no initiation nor do you have to learn a secret handshake or get tested on your knowledge of the group’s history to join. The DRL is pretty much the drone racing league for pros.
But What If You Aren’t A Pro But You Want To Race?
Don’t let us stop you. If you’ve already dumped a fair deal of cash into your pretty little drone, you should be able to enjoy using it. The best part is that you really don’t need to be a member of a league in order to send your drone over the Border with hidden packages or into restricted airspace to shoot some surveillance video. Just don’t get caught doing those things.
You can do a lot more – and legal, plus safe – things with your drone. You may be able to hire out your services to the local search and rescue group to assist with locating a missing person. You may be able to shoot video from high above a piece of land for a local real estate company. You may be able to assist with land survey data collection and all sorts of non-racing activities.
Plus, these ways you may be able to use your drone can earn you some money. The drone racers don’t get that opportunity as they are too busy trying to beat the crap out of their competition. Now if you are as badass as those serious racers, then go ahead and work your way up the ranks so that you can qualify to become a member of the Drone Racing League.
Okay, let’s boil it all down for you. Drone racing is fun, but it’s tough. That is if you plan on being serious about it. If you only want to race around the park or over the lake, it’s no biggie, and you can do that anytime you want. However, if you picture yourself as a serious racer, check out your local area for drone racing leagues that you can join and hone your skills with.
You may get good enough to become a member of the internationally-recognized DRL, and that can lead to some really intense racing events. You’ll be tested as you’ve never been tested before. The stuff your Prom date’s dad put you through was nothing compared to the torture to come as you work your way up the ladder of the Drone Racing League.
Or you could just goof around with your drone and plead ignorance when you violate any type of international privacy law by hovering too close to your neighbor’s house. We don’t use our drone for that kind of stuff. Well, not anymore, anyway. We learned our lesson the last time we got caught.