Drone racing champ Chad Nowak is challenging U.A.V. enthusiasts to try and beat him at the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships at Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The race will be held in the general area touted as the “home” to such epic movies as Hawaiian Kings, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park.
The championship races start on Thursday, October 20, and lead to the Grand Championships on Saturday, October 22. The drone racing qualifiers will be the Mini Class, Team, and such races as Wing, Extreme Freestyle, and Micro Smakdown that produce a finalist grouping.
The drone for racing is essentially a quadcopter which could be purchased ready-to-fly or built out of a kit, as Nowak has been doing. According to Gizmag, the champ’s home in Queensland, Australia, is covered in half-built quadcopters and loose parts.
Nowak’s progression to drone racing comes from 25 years of flying remote controlled aircraft and full-sized sail planes. His interest took a quantum leap when he saw a Youtube video of FPV (first person view) drone racing. Twelve months later, he was building, testing, and free flying quadcopters. On his encounter with FPV, he had this to say.
“It just totally blew me away. Two weeks later I bought my first kit, built my first quad, met up with some of the other guys flying here and the rest is history. It’s like a disease.”
According to ABC News, Chad Nowak from Brisbane won the freestyle, team and individual champion races at the inaugural U.S. National Drone Racing Championships in California last week, bagging first prize in three events to bring home more than $15,000. He earned the distinction of being the best of the best at the international drone racing competition. Going FPV (first person view) like the other competitors, he wore goggles to get a drones-eye perspective and clocked speeds of more than 60 kilometres per hour.
The FPV aspect of drone racing is its main draw, giving the competitor an “out-of-body experience” as he navigates his way through the air, his consciousness embodied by his UAV. The drones stream video from their front-facing cameras as they fly through the air, some as fast as 100 miles per hour, creating the effect of virtual reality combined with video gaming.
According to Quartz, first-person view drone racing is still a sport in its infancy. Small, custom-built drones with cameras to broadcast video feeds back to specially-designed goggles enable pilots to see what the drones see, thus the addictive appeal. The inaugural U.S. competition in California was designed to bring racers, enthusiasts, vendors and manufacturers together and help the sport grow through the interaction.
Dreamworks animation director Carlos Puertolas was one of the competitors who lost to Nowak in California’s U.S. National Drone Racing Championships. Using the handle “Charpu” in the drone vernacular, he is widely regarded as a master in the FPV craft. In an interview with National Geographic, he explained how he evolved into a racing enthusiast.
“Quadcopters are something that always intrigued me. I used to be a skater. Now I am 34. I wanted to find an outlet for my constant search for thrills, but without the danger. So flying quadcopters was a perfect fit.”
He also explained the wide appeal of the mini drone to racing fanatics. The mini quadcopter’s advantage is in its diminutive size. The smaller frame allows it to fly through small spaces like windows, gaps of all kinds, and around trees and buildings. He went on to define the term “mini.”
“The 250s are the first ones that became popular. That is, 250 millimeters from motor to motor. Things have evolved though, and you can go up to a frame of 300 millimeters and it will still be considered a mini.”
FPV drone racing is netting new followers through its live-streaming online. A huge turnout is expected at the Hawaiian event come Fall.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]