Humans love to race. We race on foot, on bikes, on horses, on boats, in cars, in airplanes, in hot air balloons ... basically, it if moves we race it, or watch it race.
As a matter of fact, I'm sure you saw plenty of headlines this week about American Pharoah's win at the Belmont Stakes. And two of the world's most-watched sports are NASCAR and Formula 1.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that drones are getting the racing treatment, too. They can move fast (approaching 40 mph), they're agile and, unlike Formula 1 and its multimillion-dollar cars, you can afford to buy one.
But what is drone racing really like? I'm sure it started off innocently enough with a few buddies seeing who could get their drone around the living room the fastest. Now, thanks to improving technology and falling costs, it's gone way beyond that.
Enter the world of underground FPV racing, which stands for "first person view." Competitors wear goggles that display real-time video from the camera on their drone. That way, they can see where they're going like they were on board.
This is happening around the world, but it's especially hitting big in Australia, which is known for its fierce love of vehicles and races. In fact, a company called QAROP has launched the first legal drone racing league there.
However, that hasn't changed the basic formula that you'll find in any country. Drone racing enthusiasts get together at abandoned warehouses, farms, in the forest or anywhere else that's available. They sketch out a course, spend a few hours practicing and then an hour racing.
Here's an example of a race:
Exciting, huh? Especially when you add in that other staple common to motorsport racing: the crash.
Getting started in drone racing is a little tricky at the moment. Drones are in a similar spot to cars back in the 1940s. You can buy them easily, but they aren't going to be good for racing without serious modification. (In fact, NASCAR started with moonshine runners racing the cars they had modified to outrun the police.)
In the same way, most drone racers perform serious modifications to get their drones race-worthy, and some even build their own. While you can spend as little as $300 on a drone, expect to spend more like $1,000 to $2,000. That does include the FPV goggles, controller, extra batteries and other accessories.
You'll need to make the mods yourself, which requires some skill with electronics. There are a lot of drone racing forums around the Internet with people who can give you tips and advice. You'll also need to look around to find racing groups near you, or start your own.
Then there are laws to consider. For example, the FAA has height restrictions on drone flying, which you probably won't hit. However, there are also line-of-site restrictions if you're outside, which means you can't have a course that takes the drones beyond your visual range.
Still, if you've ever wanted to get in on the ground floor of a brand-new sport or movement, this could be your chance.
Are you interested in drone racing? Are you already involved with it? Let me know in the comments.