Great Outdoors: Drone Racing
DULUTH, Minn. — “I’m a racer. I like to race,” says Johnny Wiita, a self-described drone enthusiast.
Wiita got his start racing RC Cars, but his friends out west convinced him to try drones.
“These things go from zero to 80 in about two seconds,” says Wiita with a huge smile.
The drones are basically quad copters that are controlled remotely.
And the pilots use cameras and a specialized set of goggles that let them use a first-person view to navigate the course.
“It’s basically like a screen, people compare it to a movie theater right in front of your face, and you’re seeing a view from the front of the aircraft (or the drone),” said Johnathan Grell, another racer we met out on the course.
These guys are members of a group called the Duluth Drone Clones.
But drone racing is becoming more popular almost everywhere.
“It’s a league that competes nationally, everywhere in the United States,” Grell said. “And we race these drones, and they’re pretty fast. They’re a lot of fun.”
Fast is an understatement.
These drones can easily reach speeds of 80 to 100 miles per hour!
“The technology is only a couple years old,” Wiita said. “So it’s so new, but once people see it they get hooked right away it seems like.”
All the gates and obstacles are spaced out according to league guidelines.
The racers here will compare their best times to racers nationwide.
“At the end of the day you log your times in the national database and it’ll see exactly where you’re sitting,” Wiita explains.
Duluth Drone Clones has a Facebook page with nearly 100 members.
They say they average around 10 pilots each time they go out for a race.