First-person drone racing looks thrilling. When controllers are zipping through forests, you could swear you’re on Endor. When operators compete in underground races in abandoned buildings, the feed wirelessly relayed to their headsets is like a roller coaster ride you control yourself.
Now, this burgeoning sport is officially…official. The US National Drone Racing Championships were held last week at the California State Fair, and it looked just as exciting as YouTube videos and hobbyist forums promised.
Quadcopter enthusiasts gathered at the event to watch a field of 100 competitors from all over the world whittle down to just one, as each controller navigated his or her drone around the track as quickly as possible. Giant television screens showed the crowd exactly what the operators were seeing, too. The event took place over two days and included freestyle aerial acrobatics displays as well as the races.
Though sitting in a chair wearing FPV googles looks easy enough, deftly navigating the drones is anything but. As the video above and GIF below show (if you can forgive the gratuitous “booth babe” shots), many of the drones smashed into the ground, go tangled up in waving flags, or simply couldn’t take off at all.
Chad Nowak of Brisbane, Australia took the top spot this year, but next year’s championships are already in the planning stages, reports the Christian Science Monitor. NASA may also be getting into the drone racing game…
You can watch more coverage of the event, including an interview with the winner, from our friends at Tested.com here.