Like an aerial motorsport-type sport, drone racing is rapidly gaining popularity. Unlike photographic drones where the focus is on hovering, racing drones have their motors configured to drive the drone forward - fast! Pilots need quick reaction times and a steady hand to accelerate and manoeuvre these quick and agile machines.
Racing drones have an onboard camera which streams live footage to goggles worn by the pilot (First Person View - FPV) so that they can see where the drone is heading. Flying a drone is not as easy as it looks and, in this sport, a small mistake by the pilot can have expensive consequences.
Courses for drone enthusiasts give theoretical knowledge and practical flying skills. Flight theory includes principles of flight, air law and procedures, navigation and planning, human factors and meteorology. Practical sessions include simulator training and indoor flights to get to grips with throttle management, hover control and key manoeuvres. Outdoor sessions include line-of-sight (LOS) and FPV drone flying which put learned skills to the test.
Drone racing events may take place in open areas with obstacles like flags and cones, while some serious international events include 'catastrophic obstacles' like tunnels and walls on their tight fast-paced courses - the event organisers encourage crashes for spectator appeal!
There are club, league, Provincial and National events in South Africa that accommodate all age groups and abilities through competition categories and classes that range from primary school children through to adults.
On courses, drones are provided for those without their own and instructors will give advice on buying the right type of drone for your interests, like racing or photography.
As the cost of drones continues to drop, the sport of drone racing is set to expand over the next few years.