Some of the world’s top professional drone-racing pilots have landed in Ireland to compete for the first time here in their sport’s version of Formula 1.
Their high-speed aerial races around Spike Island in Cork Harbour and at Bunowen Castle in Co Galway will be broadcast and streamed by Eurosport and Fox Sport in more than 100 countries around the world later this year.
One of the high-octane sport’s top pro pilots, Johnny Schaer, known on the circuit as Johnny FPV, took time out from the DR1 Racing DHL Championship Series yesterday to show off his aerial skills in Cork.
“It’s our first time racing in Ireland and it was epic,” said Johnny at the demo at Smyth’s Toys’ Kinsale Rd outlet.
“Racing around Spike Island’s prison, with the water, the beautiful scenery as a backdrop, was just incredible and we can’t wait to visit the castle.”
First-person view (FPV) drone-racing involves racing small 1kg or less drones, which are exempt from Irish Aviation Authority drone regulations, around a large indoor or outdoor track at high speed.
Unlike conventional drones, which are flown by ‘line of sight’, FPV racing pilots fly their drones using hi-tech goggles.
A camera on the front of the drone transmit live footage via a smartphone or mobile device directly to the pilot’s goggles, creating a jet pilot-like view.
Johnny, 22, said: “Flying FPV creates this surreal, incredible experience. When I discovered it, I fell in love with it and dropped everything to pursue it. It’s now a global sport, growing everywhere including Ireland.”
From Chicago, he has travelled the world competing at locations in Japan, Korea, Germany — and now Ireland. There are an estimated 200 exponents of the sport in Ireland, with their own Drone Racing Nationals which sees pilots competing for six places at a European event in Ibiza.
Johnny said it was difficult some years ago to get into the sport, but he said toymakers, Air Hogs, have created some incredible products that make it very accessible.
“These toy drones are very safe, with guards on the propellers,” he said. “It’s a very safe sport go get into. I would encourage kids to get involved. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had, and it will be the most fun you will ever have.”
Smyths is selling two racing drones: The Air Hogs DR1 Micro Race Drone, €49.99, suitable for ages eight and up, and the Air Hogs DR1 FPV Race Drone, at €119.99, with goggles.
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