Droning on

drone racing

Drones: even to mention them conjures images of American death robots, intrusive surveillance and a host of other negatives. Turning this perception on its head are a growing number of people for whom drones mean only positive things – hobbies, aerial filming and of course, as we humans love it so much, competition.

The competitive streak NewsFour saw in one diverse group of drone enthusiasts was palpable. On an overcast evening in Herbert Park we heard the unmistakable high-pitched whine of these versatile flying machines and went to investigate. We found three people discreetly bunched under a tree with the tell-tale remote controls of the drone pilot in their hands. This was drone racing, or, to give it its correct title, FPV (first person view) Racing. The FPV part refers to the fact that with a bit of clever technology, in the form of a small camera on the drone connected to a headset viewer, the pilot sees whatever the drone sees. This allows the machine to move from the field of view of the pilot and lets them around obstacles with absolute precision.

The racers were cagey at first, with all this being something of a grey area with regards to the law. They explained that as hobbyists, they were allowed to operate them without a specific permit, but still felt that as they were in a public park they might come in for some flack from the authorities.

We assured them that we were merely curious and they immediately opened up with a wave of enthusiasm, talking over each other and at times getting quite heated about whose skills were superior. They meet in a wide range of locations around Dublin and their loose gang numbers nearly a dozen. They were in Herbert Park for the second time. The playing pitches with well-spaced large trees at either end make an ideal practice course they told us.

The race is by the clock, as opposed to drone-on-drone; this is because there is enough to be crashing into without having to watch each other. They explained how this is a sport that is sure to catch on, with the equipment becoming cheaper and cheaper and the ability of spectators to watch a live feed from the drone cameras during the race. They had finished up when we approached them so we didn’t get to actually see a race but we exchanged numbers and they promised to contact NewsFour when they were meeting again. We may even enter the NewsFour copter in it so watch this space.

By Steve Kingston