Drone-racing is big business in the US – and now Britain is catching up

Flight of the navigators: the writer (and more experienced pilots) testing FPV drones in London

For such spindly contraptions, with their tiny propellers and gaffer-tape bandages, drones are remarkably resilient when a hapless beginner slams one against the floor, then the ceiling, then the floor again (repeat several times). Yet the object of today’s exercise is not to test the vertical confines of a derelict event space beside the Thames in London, but to move the thing forward – at speed.

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Fast and furious: Warehouse drone racing brings sci-fi sport to life

Zooming through mid-air checkpoints at high speeds, quadcopters are making the fantasy of Star Wars podracing into an exciting and competitive reality.

A video produced by drone manufacturer Propsman shows just how fast and furious a quadcopter race can become.

Filmed in a warehouse in San Francisco, two LED-lit drones can be seen battling it out amongst gangways of cardboard boxes and low-lying canvas waypoints. It’s breathtaking stuff:

The pilots’ skills are pushed to the limit during the 90-second clip, which ends dramatically with a mid-air collision.

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Turning drone races into a money-spinner

If video games can be a spectator sport, why not racing drones?

SOME sports, such as wrestling and sprinting, claim long histories. They were portrayed in cave paintings thousands of years ago. Others are just lifting off. The racing of drones is, thus far, a niche activity, but several firms are betting on it. “Every person under the age of 13 either has a drone or wants one,” says Nick Horbaczewski of the Drone Racing League (DRL), a startup. “We are going to raise a generation of pilots.” The DRL has raised $8m from investors, including Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, an American-football team, and CAA, a big agency that represents film and sports stars.

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