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Racing drones lineup.
Racing drones lineup.
A first person-view racing drone showing the drone's video perspective as it navigates obstacles
A first person-view racing drone showing the drone's video perspective as it navigates obstacles
Drone racing
Highest governing bodyFédération Aéronautique Internationale
First playedAustralia
Characteristics
ContactNo
Team membersNo
Mixed genderYes
TypeAir sport
EquipmentUnmanned aerial vehicle, head-mounted display, remote control
Presence
Country or regionWorldwide
OlympicNo
ParalympicNo
World Games2022

FPV drone racing (where FPV stands for first-person view or first person video) is a sport type where participants control "drones" (typically small radio-controlled aircraft or quadcopters), equipped with cameras while wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drones. Similar to full size air racing, the goal is to complete a set course as quickly as possible. Drone racing began in Germany in 2011 with a number of amateur pilots getting together for semi-organised races in Karlsruhe.[1]

Technology

FPV (first person view) flying means that pilots only see what the drone sees. This is accomplished by live streaming footage from a camera mounted on the nose of the drone. The image is transmitted as analog video (typically 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz frequency, 1.3 GHz for distant transmission) to goggles or monitor worn by the pilot. The remote control, drone, and goggles are all connected via radio and must transmit with sufficient speed and reliability to allow effective control. FPV goggles on the market range from $40 to $800, with the more expensive goggles offering more and better features. Some of these features include a wide field of view (FOV), receiver diversity, digital HD video, head tracking, multiple frequency settings, band settings and DVR (digital video recorder) recording functionality.[2]

While the pilot always requires goggles, some drone racing organizations insist they should also be used among spectators alike by simply switching the frequency to the channel of the racer one wants to watch.[3]

Any drone could be used to race, however competitive FPV racing leagues require drones to meet certain standards.

MultiGP, defines community produced specifications and allows participants to supply their own drones increasing competitiveness and innovation.[4] For competition, aircraft are typically separated into classes, separating winged craft from rotorcraft; and also categorising by size and power.[5]

The Drone Racing League (DRL) makes all of the drones used in its events in house; pilots are supplied with drones, backup drones, and parts by the league itself, not independently.

DR1 Racing, utilizes an open spec class format that relies on each team in the series to supply their own drones, goggles and gear. Recently they added the Pro Class racing drone, which is currently the largest competitive drone racing format in the world.[6]

Racing drones are designed for speed and agility, as opposed to a photography/video drone which is focused more on hovering.[7] A photography quadcopter design will typically have four motors configured in an X-pattern, all equally spaced apart. A racing model will typically have its four motors configured in an H-pattern configured to thrust the drone forward, not up. Another specific characteristic of drone racing is the number of propeller's blades. 3-blade or 4-blade (instead of 2-blade) propellers have a shorter diameter allowing for a smaller frame with increased acceleration and maneuverability capabilities. Because of their light weight and electric motors with large amounts of torque, drones can accelerate and maneuver with great speed and agility. This makes for very sensitive controls and requires a pilot with quick reaction times and a steady hand.

BMW held the Drone Racing League’s 2018 Semi Finals race at their automobile museum, the BMW Welt, in Munich, Germany and sold out the event with 3,000 fans.[8]

Course design

MultiGP provides community standards for their chapters to safely design their own courses and also generates individual pilot competition through their Universal Time Trial Track program which ranks pilots worldwide on standard measured courses.[9]

DRL creates complex, three-dimensional racecourses in locations internationally.[10] The Sci-Fi inspired tracks stretch around a mile-long.[11]

DR1 Racing's Champions Series is an outdoor racing circuit, flying in iconic locations around the world. Each location or race uses a mixture of environmental and manmade elements to create the course. The courses for the 2017 season include the Trona Pinnacles, the Mojave Boneyard at the Mojave Air and Space Port, the DHL Bonn Post Tower, Bunowen Castle in Ireland, Spike Island, and Isle of Man TT.[12] DR1's Micro Series uses indoor locations, with thematic elements.[13]

Others such as the U.S. National Drone Racing Championship tend to conduct their races in open areas with less catastrophic obstacles (flags and cones vs. walls and tunnels). [5]

Organizations

Drone racer piloting a drone
Drone racer piloting a drone

FPV racing organizations create regulations and rules to offer a fair race among its pilots.[citation needed]

Past major events

Racing quadcopter flying towards gates and flagpoles in a drone racing event
Racing quadcopter flying towards gates and flagpoles in a drone racing event

Events and venues

United States

The U.S. National Drone Racing Championship took place at the 2015 California State Fair. It was a 2-day event with a $25,000 cash prize that attracted over 120 competitors. This was the first event like this in the US, however other countries such as France, Australia and the UK had previously held similar events.[42] [43] In 2016, the annual MultiGP Championship was held at the Academy of Model Aeronautics' headquarters in Muncie, Indiana where over 120 pilots competed by qualifying through the MultiGP Regional Series which consists of qualifying events and regional finals in 15 regions across the United States.

MultiGP[non-primary source needed] is a global, professional, drone racing league with over 1000 chapters internationally including locations such as Australia, Asia, South Africa and Europe. There are no other drone racing leagues with the amount of registered pilots found within our community.

United Kingdom

The British Drone Racing League (BDRL) has recently setup and will operate a number of professional events. These events are currently being organized and will follow compliance from the CAA. [44]

Funding

DRL is the only league so far that has established major outside sources of funding.[citation needed] DRL has raised more than $30mm in venture capital backing from entities across the sports, technology and media space. Some notable investors include: Sky, Liberty Media (also owners of Formula 1), MGM, CAA, Hearst, WWE, Lux Capital, and RSE Ventures.[45][non-primary source needed] In addition, DRL has a number of high-profile sponsors, including Allianz, BMW, the US Air Force, and Swatch.[46] It also has other lines of business, including a licensing deal with Toy State, a toy manufacturing company best known for their Nikko remote control car line.[47] Finally, DRL has content licensing deals with networks around the world including ESPN and Disney XD in the United States, Sky Sports in the UK, OSN in the middle east, and the Fox Sports in Asia.[48][third-party source needed] This funding has been crucial to the development of the league, and allows them to advertise and hold their races in better venues that will attract larger crowds.

Other smaller and less established leagues have found it difficult to find funding. At events like the one held at the California State Fair, funding comes from the state and from ticket sales at the event. Along with the difficulties of finding funding, it creates problems of finding good venues that create a challenge for the pilots and also have key turns and straightaways adding to the exhilaration of these events. US Army veteran Brett Velicovich has been involved in the launch of drone racing at the Dew Tour.[49] Outside of DRL, and DR1 which has Mountain Dew as a sponsor, most smaller events are sponsored by FPV manufacturers such as Fat Shark, ImmersionRC and HobbyKing[citation needed], DYS,T-Motor, EMAX,[50] Team Black Sheep (TBS)

Simulators

Main article: RC flight simulator

Drone racing can be also simulated on computers via drone flight simulators such as Velocidrone, Liftoff, neXt, DRL Simulator, etc. Players can use game controllers such as an Xbox or PlayStation controller. Some radio real radio controllers support plug and play as well.

Publications

Magazines

Podcasts

References

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