The quadcopter is about the size of an iPad, can travel 80 miles an hours and is fully fitted with green propellers and antenna that means it resembles a type of flying insect. Drone builder and pilot Erich Bitonio has nicknamed his creation the frogger as it resembles a type of frog in his opinion. Whilst Erich loves his frogger he is prepared to pilot it to its death putting it through its paces and working hard to be the first to cross the finish line.
In September, Bitonio was amongst a few dozen drone pilots that converged at the 6th annual World Maker Faire 2015 which was held in Queens and was billed as the Aerial Sports League. The founders of the ASL, Marque Cornblatt and Eli Delia truly believe that drone competitions from first person view racing piloting fixed wing manoeuvres is set to be the next huge sports sensation, attracting sponsorships, selling out stadiums and attracting millions of online viewers.
Maker Faire with the help of sponsorship funding from DJI the Chinese drone maker and thousands of visitors expected it appeared to be the perfect place to introduce the sport of drone racing to the eager techies with the hope that they would become inspired to take up either drone fighting or racing.
The question has to be though, is drone racing actually a sport? Although I think it is it is a sport that sits in the same complex grey area as pro gamers or NASCAR drivers and all of those pursuits where success is dependent on far more than quick reflexes and strategic thinking as opposed to strength and physical mass where mechanical innovation and human ability become something that cannot be exactly defined. Whilst the crew of the Aerial Sports League are comfortable with the grey area, it should be pointed out that their competitions are at least outside.
Although Cornblatt is the first to admit that you do not have to be an extreme athlete, but you are outside and will get a little exercise, it is really a cross between a video game and being out in the real world. Parents will like it as it will get their children out and away from their games consul and the children enjoy it as they can take on the persona of their favorite superhero as they fly through the air!
Currently there are still areas that need working on when it comes to drone racing such as what the rules are, apart from getting across the finish line without crashing. However, as drone racing is just six months old the rules are likely to take on a new shape every time a new build is unveiled. There is also the persistent issue off crashing, whilst most people that race drones take to it really quickly those with video game experience may find it easier than those without. Drone racing really comes down to being able to manoeuvre the drone at breath taking speeds whilst getting around a close netted course. It does require a lot of repetitive practice, super quick reflexes and a good understanding of physics.
At Maker Faire, drone after drone hurtled through the air at supersonic speeds into the netting and getting stuck and no one was allowed inside of the netting unless they were wearing safety glasses and understood that they could end up with a propeller in the face.
The community of drone racers is beginning to produce some outstanding stars already, Carlos Puertolas, the Californian FPV pilot flies by the alias “Charpu” and already has in the excess of 34,000 followers. These people watch his slightly sickening videos before eagerly trying to recreate his style of flying and build techniques. The entire drone community do hope that the top pilots will rise further, maybe even to slots on television, sponsors and fans eager to purchase their likeness in collectable figurines and the such like.