Hobbyists in the EU and the UK have tweaked virtual headsets and drones to invent FPV (First-Person View) drone racing. Yes, racing. Writing in Ars Technica, photographer David Stock explains that FPV racers "compete in heats or time trials, speeding around courses at anything up to 60mph (100km/h)—and having a load of fun in the process."
Stock writes that he first heard of the "underground" pursuit in France, then from new hobbyists in the United Kingdom. "[These] are far from mainstream events," writes Stock, "There is a unique vibe to each location, and a homegrown, underground feel where pilots pitch in where they can; one might organise transportation, another a generator, someone will volunteer to marshal or referee, and yet another will bring a barbecue for all."
There is a DIY, communal feel to the scene, and according to David Stock, FPV racing has already zipped across the Atlantic and landed in Sacramento, at the California State Fair.
As videos and GIFs demonstrate, there is a giddy, addictive aspect to such an incredible, immersive experience. Stock portrays hobbyists so in love with the experience they have trouble sharing it with others, writing that all the pilots he encountered "struggled with this dichotomy: keep it to themselves and retain the enthusiast community, or shout from the rooftops but lose control."
We think Stock is on to something when he writes that FPV drone racing "will inevitably get bigger and better," going on to garner "TV rights, energy drink sponsors, and huge prize-winning international leagues." The videos are absolutely dizzying, producing a killer contact adrenaline rush even when viewed on a laptop on your chest as you veg out on the sofa.
Stock worries that FPV blowing up will drain the sport of some of its "magic," but we're not so sure. FPV videos alone are addictive — we think there's plenty of magic to go around.
Photos by Jean Pierre Muller/AFP