There's a new sport in town, and this one is a serious contender to become a mainstream event watched by millions.
The sport includes a forest, a drone and a head-mounted display. If you’re guessing it’s a drone racing sport somewhere in a forest, you’re guessing correctly.
As The Verge writes in a report, drones racing through a forest is the sport of the future. The course is not an easy one: there are trees everywhere, sharp turns, steep inclines, and even a miniature ravine all designed to test a pilot’s fine rotor skills.
The 100 meters long race course at East Grinstead is deliberately placed within a forest, says the FPV League — one of the UK’s fledgling drone racing organizations.
The course is too narrow for the drones to race abreast, so instead, they're competing individually in time trials. Each pilot pays a £10 buy-in and gets four goes 'round the track, with the winner taking home the pot.
So where do the head-mounted displays come in? The track itself, being in the forest, blocks the pilot’s view, which is why he’s navigating the drone using a camera and a head-mounted display to get the first-person view.
The racers are all men of mixed ages, wearing mostly jeans, T-shirts, and cargo shorts. More than a few work in the computer industry in one capacity or another, and all are racing small, custom-built drones constructed around 25-centimeter-long X-shaped carbon fiber frames, with four propellers —or props — on each corner.
"It’s a bit like [a video game] apart from it’s not virtual," says Bradley Austin, a 23-year-old first-time FPV racer who teaches video game design for a living. "In a game you crash, you reload, you crash, you reload. If you crash [your drone] you’ve got to go pick it up and solder it back together — so you’ve got that adrenaline going that your £600 investment might smash into a tree."