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High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

Posted May 18, 2016 10:40 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: drone racing radio control RF

Even as an adult, I love small-scale radio-controlled vehicles. As a kid I had tons of RC cars, trucks and even a hovercraft. Today, my RC collection is limited to a sole hobby-grade monster truck, as pictured. I used to take mini Bigfoot to a friend's house that held impromptu competitions several times a year.

These days Bigfoot does driveway runs a couple of times a summer, a part breaks (because it always does), and then I get to spend the winter cleaning and fixing it. It's a hobby that I've sunk roughly $750+ into over the last 7 years, mainly on repairs, but also on upgrades to things such as a higher turn electric motor, stronger steering servos, new radios, new gearings, better shock systems, and higher capacity batteries. And I haven't even got to the LEDs or waterproof electronic servo speed control (ESC).

(No .gif? Refresh!)

I will not be taking my talents to drone racing however. Last weekend I spotted several individuals racing quadcopter drones at a park in Schenectady, N.Y. These aren't the consumer camera drones that people have been flying into the White House and stadiums for the past couple years. These are high-tech, fast flying, race drones.

One of the most notable aspects of drone racing is that flyers typically stare at a small LCD screen mounted into the controller the entire time or wear linked first person view goggles. The drones are outfitted with a small forward-facing camera that the operators use to navigate a racecourse. Since playing video games is now considered a sport, obviously flying drones is a sport too; one that gets shown on ESPN and that the Aerial Sports League deems part X-Games, part NASCAR, and part MMA. Okay then. Others have compared it to pod racing, a la Star Wars, which seems much more apt. This year, winner of the World Drone Prix in Dubai will win $1 million.

Courses typically need to be wide open spaces, as drones regularly accelerate to over 70 mph in some leagues and race classes. Drone flyers navigate courses by the use of flags or pylons positioned around the race area, and often arrows positioned on the ground or wall; obstacles, such as ledges, hoops or other hazards are also common. Drone races last minutes, as powering four small electric motors, an ESC, RF transceiver, and camera drains the lightweight batteries quite quickly.

Beginner's racer drones start for less than $200, but this guide recommends that to be competitive racers need to mod and customize their drones to their racing style, with a minimal investment of $800. Speed, power and maneuverability are the specifications racers are most concerned about. Speed and power are directly related to the motors and props used. Small electric motors range in power from 900 Kv - 2,300 Kv. Props mostly differ by material, number of blades, and blade angle of attack. Power-to-weight ratios of 10/1 are common on higher end drone racers.

Maneuverability is also key, as turns often decides which flyer has the best technique and equipment. Having more power available helps the drone accelerate out of turns, but maneuverability is also a result of response time between the controller and drone, as well as the processing speed of the flight control software.

Drone sports is growing beyond just racing too. Flight Club is drone combat-the drones ram each other until the one can't fly. Drone dogfighting is next on the docket.

The world of e-sports continues to grow. While I'm not sure what constitutes a 'sport' anymore, drone racing has absolutely become mainstream, when just a few years ago it was exclusive to technocrats.

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#1

Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/18/2016 1:27 PM

In the early days of aviation, air races were popular. The modern equivalent may offer the same excitement in a safer way.

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#2
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/18/2016 3:39 PM

A true shame that air races aren't more popular today.

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#3
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/18/2016 4:48 PM

Yes, but strangely enough, if you can't die doing it, it just doesn't seem to draw the crowds. Maybe we haven't come that far from the Coliseum.

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#4

Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 9:09 AM

ESC does not stand for "electronic servo control"......it stands for "electronic speed control".....I have been flying the drones for a few years now and I am amazed at how fast the sport has matured into a highly competitive activity. I don't race them but I do have a ball flying them in my pasture.

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#7
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 2:04 PM

Can't argue with that. On my ESC it's even spelled it out!

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#5

Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 9:40 AM

Small electric motors range in power from 900 kV - 2,300 kV.

In this context can you tell me what you mean by kV? I always thought that kV was kilovolts. I don't think these drones use 900,000 volt to 2,300,000 volt moters.

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#6
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 2:03 PM

Simple mix up. Unit of measure is Kv, (motor velocity constant). My mistake.

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#8

Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 4:05 PM

I'm not seeing your photos, just an outline with a small icon in the upper left-hand corner.

Did you paste those directly into the CR4 editor or did you use the camera icon?

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#9
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 4:31 PM

Problem is on your end, it seems. All photos are loading and displayed. Sometimes the .gif times out, but refreshing the page should revive it.

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#10
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/19/2016 5:49 PM

It has been demonstrated that whether or not I can see the picture is due to whether the OP uses the camera icon to retrieve it or pastes it directly into the CR4 editor. If the icon is used, I can see them. If not, I can't. Hence my original question. Refreshing doesn't work.

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#11
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Re: High-Stakes Racing is the Newest Drone Application

05/20/2016 2:25 AM

Well, at home on my Win10/Chrome system & am getting the pics and videos.

Interesting article!

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