Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!

Get in the race

in Uncategorized on April 19, 2015

NOW you can satisfy the need for speed while staying stock-still: by
racing super-fast drones through fields and forests. For the pilots streaming the view from an on-
board camera through headsets, it’s just like flying. The first large-scale first-person
Image result for fly carvideo (FPV) drone race in the US kicked off in Los Angeles on 11 October. Organised by LA
resident Ryo Rex through his start-up, Aerial Grand Prix, it’s
the latest event for a sport that has spread around the world in the past year. It attracts speed freaks
who crave the thrill of zipping between trees, fences and other of it. Toy drones like the popular
Parrot AR can be had for far less money – but would be outclassed in a community that revels in
tinkering to eke out maximum velocity and manoeuvrability. Puertolas hasn’t raced yet –
instead he focuses on stunt flights that he posts to YouTube – but he wants to. Races have been
cropping up everywhere from Australia to the mountain town of Argonay, France, where last
month 25 racers zipped through the woods (pictured, above).
In the US, though, events so far have been difficult to organise because federal regulations
prohibit drones from leaving a person’s line of sight. To solve this problem, Rex’s race in LA had one spotter for every pilot, watching the drone as it raced the course, making sure it stayed on track.
They also avoided cash prizes, because that might fall foul
of regulations banning “commercial” drone activities. Instead, winners got free equipment from the small group of companies that have sprung up to meet the burgeoning demand for FPV drones and accessories. obstacles at up to 160 kilometres an hour – but without risking life
and limb in the process. “Your body is on the ground,
but your mind is up there,” says Edward Lyons, who is getting his own racing group, FPV America, off the ground in Maine. “It’s liberating.” Getting airborne requires some special equipment. For a start, the drone needs a light, tough, high-resolution camera
so it can be piloted around obstacles at speed. It also needs
a powerful wireless transmitter to stream the video back to the pilot, and the pilot needs a headset to watch the stream. Still, a good rig isn’t much more expensive than, say, a high-end
laptop. Carlos Fernández Puertolas from San Francisco flies a set-up drone that cost
around $1200, although he has customised nearly every piece
“ Sometimes when you are flying for a while you might pass yourself and
think, ‘Hey! Who is that?’ ” Stomach-dropping speed and stunts are the norm
in first-person drone racing, finds Hal Hodson
“We’re trying to make it as safe as possible,” Rex says. “We’re trying to organise it in
a way which shows everyone else in the world that we can do this safely. There’s tension with the
Federal Aviation Administration and we want to show them we can be responsible.”
Rex says his plan for Aerial Grand Prix is to stream future races over the internet. Fans could jump between live feeds of their favourite racers, experiencing the same thrills as the pilots. The insane stunts are possible because no humans are at risk, but for the pilot and viewers, it feels as though you are flying yourself. “Imagine somebody gives you the keys of an F-16 and tells you ‘Don’t worrydude, it’s OK if you crash it’,” says Puertolas. “Most importantly, you won’t
die in the process.” Rex points out that hobbyists have raced remote-control planes and cars fordecades. Only now is first-person video bringing a dose of immersion to the sport. This makes it engaging for spectators – and is a big reason why more than 100,000 videos of FPV racing have beenuploaded to YouTube in the past year or so. For pilots, it can lead to a kind
of out-of-body experience. As the drones zip through race courses or stunt runs, they sometimes come upon their pilots, watching themselves drive the instrument of observation. Many pilots report beingstartled by their physical selves as they fly around immersed in the drone’s eye view.
“It was so weird,” says Puertolas of the first time he flew past himself. “Sometimes when you are flying for a while you might pass yourself and think, ‘Hey!
Who is that?’ Your brain plays –The safest way to fly– tricks on you.” ■

Categories: Uncategorized