Over the past few years, drone racing has gained massive traction among drone enthusiasts and fans can enjoy the thrill of championship races on mainstream television. Did you know that drone racing has also seen an exponential rise in its fans amongst high school kids? The third season of GoDroneX Chicagoland Championships saw its New Trier students champions. Races have been designed for both varsity and junior varsity students so that kids can compete against each other at different levels of complexity.
FPV Drone Racing
Touted as something more than drone, GoDroneX Drone Clan Wars blends together the development and coding of interactive course elements into the race. The courses are littered with interactive moving elements to surprise the pilots while the shortcuts continuously appear and disappear. This is similar to Mario Kart if you know what I mean.
The rules are not at all intricate. The participating drones should weigh less than 60 grams including the battery and must be equipped with propeller guards. Batteries can be selected by pilots and have the option of flying both brushed or brushless machines.
As a teacher and a coach, I got the opportunity to fly the course and I had a lot of fun to be honest. The interactive course elements were absolutely exquisite while the moving obstacles provided a challenge of their own. It is definitely way more exciting that flying your drone through static gates.
What is flown by students?
Predominantly, students purchase their own drones and gear. Some educational institutions offer monetary support to clubs while most of them do not. My team was fortunate enough to get a corporate sponsorship from Half Chrome Drones. Our sponsors supplied us with drones and gear for both practice sessions and the actual race. $2500 in prize money was donated by Horizon Hobby. The winners will get their hands on drones and gear to help them continue flying and get better for the next season.
A wide array of drones are flown by students and schools but the condition of maximum weight introduces a commonality. Most of the students flew Inductrix FPV or Inductrix FPV+ quadcopters. These machines can be purchased either separately or as all in one FPV kits from Horizon Hobby. The Inductrix FPV costs $150 and includes a brushed Inductrix, basic remote controller and a FPV monitor. The FPV+ is a more advanced variant that comes with the altitude hold feature.
Eachine M80 is the second most popular drone at these competitions. It is essentially similar to the Inductrix FPV+ and priced significantly lower. Students have to get their own goggles in order to fly these drones but the 8.5mm brushed motors, angle mode, altitude hold mode and acro mode make these devices a super duper hit amongst students. Amazon is offering a package deal that lets you purchase a M80 with a remote controller for just $74 or you can get the drone separately from Banggood for just $63.
Emax Tinyhawk is another popular drone at the events. It is brushless micro and is quite powerful and efficient in contrast to its brushed counterparts. In order to fly these machines, you need to be a bit more skillful but as opposed to the aforecited machines, this one can be customized using Betaflight.I have flown all these three drones alongwith tons of other but the Emax Tinyhawk is the best beginner drone as far as I am concerned. The drone costs $100 but the all in one kit costs only $165 that bundles together the drone, remote controller, FPV goggles and a carrying case.
I would urge you to get your hands on additional batteries whether you are flying the Emax or any other drone. The battery life is quite limited (about 3 to 5 minutes) when it comes to racing drones and students tend to end up burning through a hell lot of them during the races. I would suggest the larger 600mAh batteries that I prefer for an enhanced flight time. Here is more information about the Tinyhawk.
The Educational Perspective
There is quite a lot of debate doing the rounds about the educational value of these races and clubs. The students tend to get trained in building, tuning and repairing drones which is quite evident. However, the Exponent Challenge is yet another crucial aspect of the Drone Clan Wars. Moving obstacles are designed, built and configured by students for the courses which is similar to a robotics or a VEX contest.
Gregg Novosad is the mastermind behind the GoDroneX Drone Clan Wars. He spends a lot of time in order to bring these events to fruition and brings gear and obstacles to the events. The competitions are interspersed with DJ performances, lights and real time views of racers from multiple cameras on the course and from the machines themselves. Visit www.godronex.com or email him directly at Gregg@godronex.com for more information.
We have already done a three part series for those interested in getting started with FPV. Here are the links to the three posts. Happy flying!