Drone racing

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Minion 220 racing multirotor.
A first person view racing drone showing the drone's video perspective as it navigates obstacles

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 Australia in late 2013 and early 2014 with a number of amateur pilots getting together for semi-organised races in Brisbane and Melbourne.[1]

Drone racing technology[edit]

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 via radio waves (typically 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz frequency) 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. This technology is very new and is constantly being improved. FPV goggles on the market range from $50 to $500, with the more expensive goggles offering more and better features. Some of these features include a wide field of view (FOV), receiver diversity, head tracking, multiple frequency 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 you want to watch.

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.[3] For competition, aircraft are typically separated into classes, separating winged craft from rotorcraft; and also categorising by size and power.[4]

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.[5]

Racing drones are designed to focus all of their energy into moving forward, as opposed to a photography/video drone which is focused more on hovering. 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.[6]

Course design[edit]

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.[7]

DRL creates complex, three-dimensional racecourses in locations internationally.[8] The Sci-Fi inspired tracks stretch around a mile-long.[9]

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.[10] DR1’s Micro Series uses indoor locations, with thematic elements.[11]

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[edit]

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

  • MultiGP - MultiGP is the most accessible drone racing league and the only organization with chapters all around the world. MultiGP governs and sanctions drone racing events internationally, with over 16,000 members and over 500 chapters worldwide. Official Special Interest Group of the Academy of Model Aeronautics for first person view racing. The organization is the only drone racing league which hosts frequent competition-based tournaments, free-fly gatherings and casual events by executing the most successful grassroots and professional racing initiatives in the history of the sport. Complimentary event management assets and community guidance help the organization strengthen and grow organically without exploitation resulting in hundreds of official chapters and thousands of registered pilots worldwide. This makes MultiGP the most accessible organization to a pilot wishing to compete in drone racing.
  • Drone Racing League (or DRL) (For Profit) is a television programme where invited pilots are filmed competing in drone races. Pilots are invited to participate in several races as part of the DRL's global racing circuit. The races are filmed and edited into hour-long episodes that air on ESPN, SKY Sports and others.[12] DRL is viewable in over 75 countries across the world and will broadcast their third season this fall.[13] DRL is the only league that pays their pilots a livable wage in exchange for their piloting services.
  • DR1 Racing (For Profit) is a televised racing series where pilots must maintain their own gear, similar to battlebots, with various races and formats airing on television. The six episode inaugural season had episodes viewable at various times on Eurosport, CBS, Fox Sports, Discovery Channel, beIN, and Twitch.tv.
  • RotorMatch League (or RML) - French organizer with streaming, timekeeping & managing solution through RotorMatch
  • FPVR - First Person View Racing is the Australian and New Zealand grassroots drone racing league. The participating chapters offer regular race meetings and a unified leaderboard and season progression. This leads to pathway opportunities to compete internationally as part of team FPVR.
  • Australian FPV Racing Association Inc. (AFPVRA) - Australian based drone racing association. Recognised as the “National Special Interest Group” by the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA) and tasked with promoting and developing the sport of FPV racing in Australia.
  • The Australian FPV Association Inc. (AUFPV) - Special interest group for FPV within Australia. Sanctioned by the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA).
  • British FPV Racing Association (BFPVRA) UK based drone racing association. Recognised as a “Specialist Body” by the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) and tasked with promoting and developing the sport of FPV racing in the UK.
  • European Rotor Sports Association(ERSA) a Europe-based FPV Racing organizer.
  • X Class Drone Racing - North America's giant drone racing league, hosting races and special events for drones 800mm to 1200mm.[14]
  • Freespace Drone Racing (Previously known as Freedom Class) - is the world's first giant drone racing league. The aircraft are the largest and most powerful racing drones ever built,[15] designed specifically as a spectator sport. With successful tests occurring throughout 2016 and 2017,[16] the first international series is set to take place in late 2020.

Freespace also operates the FS500, a mid size (500mm) racing drone, geared for live spectators and live broadcast, as a stepping stone for professional pilots getting into giant drone racing[17] The FAI partnered with Freespace Drone Racing in 2017[18] to professionalise the drone racing industry, across multiple international events, including the 2018 Barcelona Drone Racing World Cup.[19]

  • Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) - European governing body for air sports. Recognised by the International Olympic Committee. The Federation coordinates the organisation of the FAI Drone Racing World Cup and the FAI World Drone Racing Championship.
  • Drone Sports Association (DSA) (For Profit) - The Drone Sports Association (Formerly RotorSports) was the oldest drone racing and drone sports organization worldwide.
  • International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) (For Profit) - The International Drone Racing Association is a professional racing organization that sanctions and governs multiple drone racing events
  • Hong Kong FPV Racers (For Profit) - Hong Kong based drone racing organisation that holds regular event, international races, lias with AFA, ASFC, FAI for setting out the standard for drone racing. It have a web site, facebook page and group for the public access. HKFPVR had used online board casting system for their event.
  • FPV Racing Organisation (FPVR) (For Profit) - Australian based drone racing organisation that holds many regular events, making drone races accessible to anyone and everyone.
  • TOS FPV Racing Club (For Profit) - China based drone racing organisation that holds many regular events, making drone races accessible to anyone and everyone. In 2016, TOS Asia Cup Shanghai and China Drone National was the largest FPV Drone Racing in Asia over 140 registered pilots.
  • Canadian Federation for Drone Racing (CFDR) (Non Profit) - The official governing body, safety influence and national voice for organized multi-rotor and FPV activities in Canada.
  • FPV Canada (For Profit) - Began as FPV Montreal in late 2014 and is now Canada’s largest, multi-group racing league with franchise locations in most major cities in Canada. Organizers of the Montreal Drone Expo (2016), Canadian Drone Nationals (2016/17) and Vancouver Drone Expo (2017).
  • FPV Finland ry (Non Profit) - The Finnish association of drone racing and FPV flying. Established 2017. Organised Jämi FPV open 2017 and 2018, the national drone racing cup and several other races.
  • Rotorcross (ROX) (Non Profit) - Began as an FPV drone racing group in late 2014 and is now one of Australia's largest clubs, with club pilot representation at the Australian Australian FPV Racing Association Inc. Drone Nationals (2016, 2017), DSA Worlds held in Hawaii (2016) and FPVR Aussie Open (2017). A dedicated training ground in Perth Australia with 3 fields it holds weekly racing, training and casual events for all skill levels.
  • World Drone Prix
  • Drone League Venezuela (DRLV) - Venezuela based drone racing organisation that holds regular events, making drone races more accessible to anyone and everyone.
  • Drone Champions League (DCL) (For Profit) - The DCL is the world's largest live drone racing league. Seven permanent teams with at least four pilots fly in the DCL. The teams at the races are complemented by local wild card teams. 2018 is the 3rd season of the DCL and so far three races have been held, two more will follow. The biggest sponsors of the DCL are Breitling as official timekeeper, Red Bull and Trilux. The Drone Champions League races will be broadcast live in over 100 countries by 38 TV channels.[20]
  • DRCL (Drone Racing Chile) (Non Profit) Group that unites the Chilean groups of Drone Racing, founded in 2019, brings together more than 100 pilots, several of whom are regional and world leaders.

Past major events[edit]

  • 2018 FAI 1st Drone Racing World Championship, held in Shenzhen, China. This event was broadcast live across multiple channels, including the Olympic Channel. The race was won by a 17 year old Australian, over 128 competitors from 34 countries.[21]
  • 2017 DR1 Racing’s DHL Champions Series Fueled by Mountain Dew. This team based drone racing series consisted of 6 races in locations around the world. The Finals of this racing series were held on the Isle of Man TT, and aired on CBS and Eurosport. The broadcast of the Series Finals on CBS drew the largest audience ever for a professional drone race on network television, grabbing a .4 share and 559,000 viewers.[22]
  • 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships Presented by GoPro New York - The second annual event was held August 7 on New York City's Governor's Island. 145 pilots competed in the event for a total prize purse of $57,000.[23][24][25]
  • 2016 MultiGP National Championships, Indiana - The second annual event was held at the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) headquarters in Muncie Indiana on September 4, 2016. Over 140 pilots arrived on-site to battle for this Championship event and a chance at the $15,000 prize purse.[26][27]
  • 2016 World Drone Racing Championships took place October 20–22 in Kualoa Ranch, Island of Oahu, Hawaii, USA [28][29]
  • In 2016, TOS Asia Cup Shanghai and China Drone National was the largest FPV Drone Racing in Asia over 140 registered pilots and 15 countries participated the event.
  • The 2016 DR1 Invitational was the most watched drone racing event of the year, airing on Discovery Channel and Eurosport broadcasting in over 70 countries around the world. The race was held in Sepulveda Dam where pilots navigated through the dam’s opening as well as various gates on the course.[30]
  • 2015 US Fat Shark National Drone Racing Championships, California - The first annual U.S. National Drone Racing Championships were held in 2015. This event was held in a stadium at the California State Fair. The prize for winning the competition was $25,000 and was competed for by over 100 competitors. Chad Nowak, an Australian, won all three events including the individual time trial, was on the winning team trial squad, and won the freestyle trick event. This gave him the title of 2015 Drone Racing National Champion.[31][32][33]
  • World Drone Prix, Dubai - World's biggest and most lucrative drone race, with a total prize fund of US$1 million.[34]

Events and venues[edit]

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 like France, Australia and the UK had previously held similar events.[35] [36] 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.


United States[edit]

MultiGP 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[edit]

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. [37]

Funding[edit]

DRL is the only league so far that has established major outside sources of funding. 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.[38] In addition, DRL has a number of high-profile sponsors, including Allianz, BMW, the US Air Force, and Swatch.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42] 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,[43] Team Black Sheep (TBS)

Podcast[edit]

FPV Podcast - The first podcast to cover drone racing, pilots and key people growing the FPV Community. The mission of the podcast is to help grow the community and document the history of FPV.

References[edit]

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  43. ^ "Emax Model". 8 Oct 2017.