Racing

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]

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 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 gogglesive 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

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).