Drones are among the latest gadgets to take the world by storm. If you are not familiar with drones, they are small remote-control aircraft, usually with four rotors, so known alternatively as a ‘quadcopter,’ that are flown for fun, for business, and now for sport across the world.
So, what type of drones are there? Ignoring the military drones that are a powerful and versatile tool, the commercially available drones generally fall into three groups, these being:
- Cheap hobby drones
- Camera drones
- Racing drones
The first category is aimed at newcomers to the world of drones which are in it for fun and might move on and buy something better if they enjoy it. Camera drones are used mainly by licensed operators to perform surveys and take pictures while hovering, the cheapest form of aerial photography. Racing drones are a different class altogether, and that’s what we want to look at here.
What are FPV Drones?
Drone racing has become a popular hobby and will undoubtedly grow into a proper commercial sport in a time. It’s an air race in which the pilot does not leave the ground. These drones are ‘first-person view’ craft – or FPV – and they are fast, sophisticated, and often raced out of sight. The pilot instead follows his or her drone on a phone or other screen, much like playing a computer game.
While camera drones are designed to be able to hover for long periods, FPV drones are for performance, and they can get very competitive. It takes skill and experience to learn how to fly a drone in FPV mode with success!
There are a few types of fpv drone kits whereby you build from the components supplied. Some assume you already have the transmitter and receiver; others supply them with the kit. The pilots closest to the professional level even build drones from scratch by buying the relevant components and fitting them to their own design.
But before you rush out and buy a drone to get the training, you need to consider the legality of drones and where you are permitted to fly them.
Are Drones Legal?
There are laws about flying drones that have been put into place for safety reasons. Anything other than a ‘toy’ drone will need a license to fly, and you may have to undertake training and pass an exam.
This makes sense as professional drones – both camera and FPV -can reach serious heights, and that means possibly interfering with controlled airspace.
A few years ago, there was a famous series of incidents over a few days that shut down Gatwick Airport, one of the busiest in the UK, following reports of sightings of drones flying within and near the airport perimeter. No explanation has ever been put forward.
However, it should be understood that drone races are organized events taking place in controlled areas – usually in large cities in empty spaces – that pose no threat to air travel. If you do happen to live within a few miles of an airfield of any kind, take your drone elsewhere to practice.
Should I Take Up Drone Racing?
Why not? It’s a great hobby that requires skill and concentration and that is growing surprisingly quickly in popularity. Drone races draw decent crowds, and the best events are well organized and competitive. Before you splash out on an FPV kit, start with a smaller quality drone, learn to fly it where it is safe and legal, and you’ll find you reach a level of skill that makes you want to move on and race FPV drones.