Thursday, July 22, 2021

The new, underground sport of first-person drone racing



by David Stock (UK)

If you hadn’t noticed, drones and quadcopters are rather popular right now. Hardly a day goes by without some kind of automated or remotely piloted aircraft somehow causing a ruckus, or providing a new way for militaries and cinematographers alike to get the shot they need. What you might not have noticed, however, is that there is an underground movement to turn drone flying into a sport.

Known as FPV (first-person view) drone racing, or sometimes FPV quadcopter racing, the sport involves building and modifying quadcopters for speed and manoeuvrability, adding a virtual reality-style headset with a live video feed from the drone, and then finding safe and legal places to fly. Racers compete in heats or time trials, speeding around courses at anything up to 60mph (100km/h)—and having a load of fun in the process. This sport, which seems to appeal to aspiring pilots, makers, and computer game fans alike, has all the adrenaline of flight, while also providing enough crashes, smashes, and collisions to keep even the most ardent sports fans happy.

For the past three months, I’ve been photographing the fledgling sport at various locations throughout the UK. I’ve found that there is much more to it than a bunch of geeks comparing voltage signals or PID settings in the woods on a Sunday.