What is the “buzz” surrounding drone racing

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by Zach Redwood

Northeast Campus Editor

 

Drones have recently exploded on the scene. The drone craze is still relatively new to most people but the national consensus about drones mostly comes from the kind that the armed forces use.

A drone by definition is an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers. The drones that the armed forces use are utilized for surveillance and precision action in situations where intrusive military action is not desired.

For more recreational use, quad copter drones have begun to create a buzz amongst children and videographers everywhere. The quad copters give the user a bird’s eye view from the sky and allow him or her to get shots that previously were not available.

Anyone that grew up flying model airplanes or racing radio control cars can relate to the feeling of racing something that you put your time and effort into crafting. This is the current culture among enthusiast clubs around Tulsa.

Fans everywhere have taken this opportunity to build their very own quad copters from the ground up using a soldiering iron. The drones are equipped with high tech flight controllers and first person view cameras. The FPV cameras give the flier a live video feed to a monitor or to a virtual reality headset that the user can wear.

While drones are used all over for filming nature scenes, sporting events, and even real estate listings, they have recently come into the spotlight for racing. The Drone Racing League or DRL is currently the biggest league known to date.

The events are held in larger football arenas or abandoned power stations that give the exciting backdrop to a new and unusual kind of sport.

 

Many different sizes of racing drones exist but most racers use a 250mm size frame for competition.

Customization is endless with any kind of racer and fliers will try anything to gain any kind of edge. Once pilots have finished his or her copter, the DRL then assembles a total of five copters for each pilot to use during different heats. Since the drones crash, batteries die, and things malfunction the DRL sets all of its participants up for success. The drones can cost up from $800-$1000 considering all the different components of a racing drone.

The DRL works like a bracket style tournament. Participants gain points while flying around the gigantic tracks. Every checkpoint is worth 50 points and fliers earn ten extra points for every second that they finish under the two-minute time cap. After three heats around the track the scores are totaled from all fliers and the copter with the most points will advance to the next round.

The most recent race occurred in Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins pro football team. The inaugural preseason race occurred in ‘The Gates of Hell’ an old power plant that gained its name being a former site of many gang initiations in the 70s and 80s.

“We put on a global circuit of races, with the best pilots and the most interesting locations, creating compelling sports media and sharing it with the world,” says founder and CEO of the DRL Nick Horbaczewski.

The preseason and race one was available live on Twitch.com and the aftermath edit of the entire races are on the DRL YouTube account.

DRL treats the events like a true sports broadcast. The names of the racers are well displayed and commentators engage listeners and help explain the tactics and technique that the racers display.

“I think it will be the next X-Games,” says Zoomas, winner of the Miami Lights race. Zoomas is referring to the explosion of attention that the X-Games received in the late 90s as an alternative sport other than the usual NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLS.

The next DRL event is scheduled in Los Angeles. ‘The L.A. Pocolypse Rubble and Brimstone’ does not yet have a date set, but racers are already prepping.

Tulsa Drone Club and Tulsa Multicopters are two local groups on Facebook that encourage meet-ups and races around Tulsa.

For more information on drone racing and quad copters, visit www.thedroneracingleague.com.

 

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