First-person drone racing: Watch the fast-paced, high-action new sport that is taking off in the UK
Do you like drones and model aircraft, and also fancy taking part in an extreme sport without causing any possible harm to yourself? Then we have the perfect extreme sport for you: first-person drone racing, a fast-paced extreme sport that is slowly coming out of the underground.
In the last two years, smaller unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) weighing less than 20kg have finally made their way into the consumer space, but there are still many regulations in place preventing their use in urban areas, which is currently stifling the technology's potential to become a huge commercial industry for crop monitoring, photography and deliveries.
However, while lawmakers continue to debate, drone enthusiasts have been quietly developing their very own extreme sport – first-person view (FPV) drone racing, where tiny quadcopter drones bought off the shelf, or as DIY kits, are being modified and souped-up to go head-to-head in fast-paced, nerve-wracking racing championships.
In these competitions, which commonly happen out of the public's eye in parks, fields and abandoned buildings, eight pilots fight to get their drone to the finish line first by remotely controlling their UAVs using goggles that let them see what the drone sees from its on-board camera.
Speed and accuracy in controlling the drone is key as obstacles are often set up to make the race harder, but if the competition follows safety guidelines, the only casualties are the UAVs, which are usually right as rain again after fixing a quick propeller or its battery.
"I was already into quadcopters and aerial photography, then I saw a video on YouTube and thought, 'Oh wow, you can race these, this could be good,' so a few friends and I got them," Brett Collis, a Loughborough University student who placed third in the Drone Nationals 2015, the first official annual drone championship set up by the UK FPV League, told IBTimes UK.
"When I'm not at uni, the weather's good and other people are ready to fly, pretty much every day I fly the drones."
FPV drone racing can be challenging
I've reviewed consumer drones in the past, so I jumped at the chance to test out FPV drone racing at the Killjoys racing masterclass, but it's definitely a different kettle of fish between flying a regular consumer UAV and an FPV racing drone.
The controls are similar, but where with a consumer drone you can see the controller as well as the drone at the same time, and can instantly see how your actions affect the drone, the googles of the FPV racing drone encloses you in another world, where only speed, avoiding obstacles and beating the other UAVs matters. The miniature size of the racing drones also means it moves a lot faster than a standard consumer quadcopter, and it can be quite disconcerting to view the world from the "eyes" of the drone.
Still, although FPV racing drones can be dangerous if not used at a safe distance from pilots and spectators (one took out the eye of a toddler in a tragic accident), and it can take a while to get good at racing, Collis sees a multitude of benefits in the sport.
"The reason why I do it is because it's an adrenalin rush – when you're racing someone, you're flat out and you're pushing yourself mentally, nothing else beats it that you can get for the price that you can do it for," he said.
"It's quite accessible to everyone, you don't need massive amounts of money. The drones are pretty durable so the most you can do is break a few propellers and they're only a few pounds each to replace." For more information visit: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/first-person-drone-racing-watch-fast-paced-high-action-new-sport-that-taking-off-uk-1539580