Ever since their introduction a few years ago, drones have seen various uses. Initially, they were used as aides during photo sessions. It was only a matter of time before speed enthusiasts realized that these things are ideal for racing.
Pretty soon skies were full of neon-colored drones that flew around performing various weaves and drops as they passed from one checkpoint to the next. All the while the pilot is sitting at a safe distance, detached from all the breakneck daredevil stunts the little machine is performing. The only injury that might occur is the one to their ego due to a defeat or race-ending crash.
The main draw of the Drone Racing League is the skill the pilots exhibit while flying the drones. The pilots bring the skill, while the little flying robots perform the stunts 2017 saw the release of one of the most potent racers ever produced. The Racer3 is capable of reaching speeds of up to 85 mph, and it achieves it in one second. It is also capable of flying for more than three minutes. This is more than enough time for the drone to make one or two laps around the race course. The new and improved drone also has more than double the amount of thrust that the previous model had, and that means it speeds up quicker, but it also takes more skill to maneuver successfully.
The most significant difference between drones and other unmanned crafts is that there are no training wheels to help the pilot fly the craft. This means that apart from the camera, which streams the drone’s eye view directly to the pilot, there are no other systems in place that make flying the drone any easier. There is no autopilot feature, and there is no flight assistance system either. It is all up to the man flying the drone and his reflexes and skills as a pilot.
One of the most significant advantages of the Drone Racing League is that it uses standard drones. This eliminates any variables that are not related to driver skill. This is different from, for example, Formula 1 racing where a team might have the best driver in the world, but the car keeps constantly holding him back. The driver might be on point, but it is of no use if the engineering team keeps underperforming.
Initially, in air races that did not fall under the Drone Racing League, the model was similar to Formula 1. Pilots were able to show off their skills in customized vehicles which gave engineers the chance to reveal their new and improved designs. On the other hand, the Drone Racing League gets rid of all of that. In the DRL, every pilot uses the same craft, the same controller, and the same VR equipment. This means that everyone is on a level playing field and the pilot’s skills are tested to the maximum.
To further this point, the Racer3 is streamlined even more when compared to the standardized high-end consumer drones. It lacks any form of stabilizing features. This means that the drone is missing any kind of sensor capable of detecting objects in its surroundings. It is also missing a sensor that helps the drone maintain horizontal orientation during flight.
The drone itself consists of a polycarbonate shell which gives it a certain level of protection and allows the drones to bump into each other during the race. Because of this shell, the drones are also able to bounce lightly off the ground as well as off of walls.
The best thing about the DRL is that the league itself manufactures the drones and it is continuously working on and developing new features to make the entire thing more interesting to the pilots as well as the ever-growing viewer count.