Pack it up, it’s Drone Racing Time!…Maybe not yet in Africa

Drone Racing in Africa

‘Do or do not, there is no try’

‘The force is strong with this one’

‘Now, be brave and don’t look back’

The Star Wars Franchise

The scene that is projected in my mind was when Anakin before he joined the Dark side and became Darth Vader ultimately, was found on a planet and was into Podracing. Now in Star Wars, Podracing was a dangerous racing sport on planets such as Malastare and Tatooine. Racers could perform multiple laps on a particular race track, moving at dangerous and, at times, deadly speeds. The races were performed using craft known as Podracers or pods, which were small, one-man craft propelled by large engines.

I can’t seem to get enough of the Star Wars scene…

The next scene that hops into mind is the final race from the Motion Picture Speed Racer. When the Speed Racer is hammered down during his final race and it seems that all hope was lost. He found his inspiration, sparked the car to life and raced passionately to finish first ahead of his rivals.

Honestly, a boy can only dream of such concepts of racing when he sees the exhilarating speed, the control of the machines and how passionate the drivers are. It is a euphoric feeling honestly and one doesn’t shake it off even after many years. So you can imagine my surprise when I tuned in to Kwese Sports and they showed a news story of the world drone racing competition. I was absolutely amazed at the fact that drones that have been barely used here in our nation for photography have now reached the potential to actually be used for racing on a global level.

Drone Racing

FPV (first-person view /video) drone racing is a newly developed sport where participants control drones, equipped with cameras while wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drones. Similar to full-size air racing, the goal is to complete a set course as quickly as possible. Drone racing began in Australia in late 2013 and early 2014 in Brisbane and Melbourne.

FPV means that pilots possess the ability to see only see what the drone sees. This is accomplished by live streaming footage from a camera mounted on the nose of the drone. The image is transmitted via radio waves to a pair of goggles or monitor worn by the pilot. The remote control, drone, and goggles are all connected via radio and must transmit with sufficient speed and reliability to allow effective control.

Drone Racing – An Evolving Sport

This technology is very new and is constantly being improved. Improvements are being made to ensure racing and experience are as amazing as Nascar. The Drone Racing League (DRL) is a professional drone racing league that operates internationally. DRL pilots race with identical, custom-built drones at speeds above 80 MPH through three-dimensional courses.

News publication Quartz described DRL as feeling ‘like pod-racing from Stars Wars’ with ‘hopes of becoming the Formula 1, NASCAR and MotoGP of drone racing.’ I just knew they had caught the vision as it were. The league is in its third season being the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship Season. It features seven races in locations including Allianz Riviera in Nice, France, BMW Welt in Munich, Germany, and The Adventure dome in Las Vegas, Nevada.

DRL recently launched the Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, an autonomous drone racing series. It will invite teams of university students and technologists to design an AI framework capable of flying a drone through DRL courses without human intervention and compete for a chance to win $2 million in prizes.

Drone Racing in the Olympics?

Drone racing may not yet be in Africa but it’s catching up rather quickly. Don’t be surprised when the new sport is listed in the next Olympics. Drone Racing is literally just one step away from bringing in the concept of robots being used in various human based competitions.

For me, when I learn about things like this and realize the potential of what the future can possibly look like, all I say is Ready Player One.

Submitted by: Kweku Diaw

Image: @davidhenrichs

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