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Racing drones through a forest makes video games look ridiculous

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."

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years of experience in writing various types of content, from blogs, whitepapers, and reviews to ebooks, and many more, across sites including Al Jazeera Balkans, TechRadar Pro, IT Pro Portal, and CryptoNews.