What does it take to race drones Like A Pro?
Feature image courtesy of: uavsa.org
Drone racing is fun. This is the next generation of racing – who needs Formula 1? In this article, we are going to cover few topics related to drone racing – legal considerations, choosing a class, components, fastest drones, then finally tell you a little bit about insurance that you can purchase to cover your drone for races.
Before purchasing a drone, the first thing a pilot should check is if there are any legal considerations. For example, a drone over 0.55 lbs (pounds) should be registered with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the USA for any outdoors flight. An additional consideration is that the FAA also requires registration in the case of ‘flying for money’, e.g. a pilot who flies a commercial plane. The reason this applies in the case of drone racing is any pilot, who wins and receives money, is technically flying for money according to the FAA. Now that is just the US, there are different requirements in Europe.
In most European countries flying drones is perfectly legal, but there is often a distinction made between recreational use and professional use. In the case of recreational use, drones don’t have to be registered with any specific aviation authority and can be used freely. On the other hand, drones that are used professionally such as selling photographs require registration. Generally speaking, the pilot should respect all aviation rules, not disrupt air traffic, and bear full responsibility for any damage caused.
Choose a class
Drone flying encompasses a variety of class that each have their own requirements:
The class plays an important role when a pilot considers either purchasing or building their own drone. The Nano class allows for very small drones that would cause nearly no property damage if the drone crashes during the race. On the hand, the Extra class would encompass larger drones exceeding 350mm. Obviously, a drone longer than 350mm would cause significant damage when it crashes.
An important note is that classes may change depending upon the race organizer. In other words, they may decide before the event to categorize the drones differently. And, it’s also worth noting that as technology improves and changes, e.g. the transmitter becomes better, then the class characteristics tend to follow suit and change accordingly.
Whether the drone is store bought or custom built, the components of the drone are important. In particular, the controller or transmitter that is used to fly the drone. The pilot should have complete control of the drone and ensure basic activities like takeoff and landing are executed successfully. In addition, a pilot may choose to wear FPV goggles to reduce glare and see exactly what the drone is seeing. Naturally, both contribute to racing successfully, but there are two other components which could easily be overlooked: batteries and spare parts.
Batteries are an essential component that powers the drone. In most cases, a LiPo battery is used and should be selected depending on the controller and motors to power the drone on race day. Of course, one needs to be careful, because the batteries can have a direct impact on the drone’s weight ultimately slowing it down. It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation, since the batteries power the drone, but have an impact on speed depending on how heavy they are on the drone. In addition to the basic function, a pilot will need quite a lot of them. It may take a few practice rounds to ensure that the pilot has mastered flying a particular drone. For that reason, it’s always recommended to carry extra batteries so that there are no problems with losing power. It goes hand in hand with carrying spare parts.
A drone is bound to break at some point either due to faulty parts or a crash. There is nothing worse than being at the race and not having the necessary parts to repair the drone. And, the result could mean losing the race or not finishing at all!
Now, that’s all good and well. But, what might be the fastest drones out there that require some of the components mentioned above?
The term fastest drone is quite subjective. There are a few that call themselves the ‘fastest’ drone, but it really depends on what the desired drone characteristics are. There are a couple of examples of drones that can be called the ‘fastest’ done, e.g. the Walkera F210 FPV or the Diatone Crusader GT 210 which can reach a speed of 99 mph. Generally speaking, drones can reach speeds of up to 150 km/hr. For those that want to test the speeds and limits, there is only one way.
The drones that break speed records are those that are custom built. So, any pilot wishing to win races and set records should build their own. It’s a nice activity to take up because the pilot will know each and every aspect of their drone and how it operates.
It is highly recommended to have drone insurance. It’s always there to protect the drone in case of an accident. This is particularly important for racing pilots who depend on using their drone and want to keep it in top condition. While it’s not a requirement to have insurance in some jurisdictions like the United States, it is a requirement in Canada, especially for professional use.
It’s also important to note that homeowners insurance does not cover the drone. For this reason, the drone requires its own separate insurance policy. The most basic insurance is liability insurance which provides the most basic cover and is a prerequisite to other types of insurance coverage. Having said that, it may be worth to cover other components of the drone, not just someone else’s damage.
Pilots can protect their controllers or other components by adding ‘ground equipment’ to their insurance policy. These items should be covered in this way with an associated deductible as is the case with any insurance policy. And, it’s important to select the correct items depending on their value and how easily replaceable they are. Or, a pilot might decide to cover every single component.
Obviously, these additional insurance types help to reduce the cost of loss. But, that may only be true in cases where the drone’s value is accurate. If the value is improperly stated, then this could have negative implications during the claim process.
In the end, drone racing should always be safe and fun. There are so many options out there in addition to the ones discussed here that there is a drone for everyone. The goal is to find a suitable drone that has the proper components and spare parts.
Get out there and start racing!