Inside the extreme sport of drone racing

Multi-rotors, more popularly known as drones, are being outfitted with video technology to place people in the pilot’s seat. This technology allows users to experience the thrill of flight without the risk of injury. We introduce you to a racing league with local chapters around the world.

TRANSCRIPT

Multirotors, more popularly known as drones, are being outfitted with video technology to place people in the pilot seat.

This technology allows users to experience the thrill of flight without the risk of getting hurt.

We take you to a racing league that allows pilots to compete in this extreme sport now skyrocketing in popularity.

[ Electronic music plays ]

MultiGP is a grassroots racing league.

Whenever you are looking to race FPV, race multirotors -- or drones, like a lot of people like to call them -- you need a place to do it.

And so that's what the grassroots effort of MultiGP is focused on.

It's our goal to find a place in every city, a field in every city, and put coaches and train people in those fields so, that way, we can have a real sport occurring all over.

As of October 2015, MultiGP has 140 local chapters around the world and over 3,000 registered pilots.

This sport is growing.

We started about three months ago in our group with about five or six guys.

It was just a couple of friends that wanted to start the group.

Now we have almost 150 members.

And every day, there's always somebody new getting on it.

At a recent event in Orlando, pilots competed to improve their national rankings.

So, as a pilot, you come to the official monthly race if you want to be ranked on their leaderboard to determine how good of a pilot you are.

By participating, you gain points.

They go to the overall score that you would have if you participate in each of these events.

The MultiGP website lists upcoming races.

It also provides pilots key information they need to compete.

They register, and it gives them a frequency.

And that frequency is what they use to fly.

And then I tally up the points, and, at the end of six months, it also gives them a total of points for the championships.

Like all competitors, MultiGP pilots are constantly searching for ways to gain an edge.

So, part of racing is studying the track and looking at your machine and saying, 'Okay, how can I tune this machine for my next race?

What will I need? Speed?

Will I need agility?'

That stuff you have to take into consideration when you're gonna go fly.

And it's part of the tuning process.

If you're -- Let's say today you're racing in a track that's a really long track with minimal turns.

You can use really big motors, and you'll be able to have a lot of speed.

The track was really interesting.

They actually did an upper raised gate where you had the opportunity to shoot a small hole and save some time, and so that was really exciting.

It's a racecar, so you always have to make the fine adjustments to be a little bit faster than the other guy, which would be changing the propeller, changing the motor, or tilting your camera a little higher as you get better.

I have it written down.

The people who are in this sport right now, this is the early adopters.

They're technology people.

They are computer people.

They're people.

It's a bunch of nerds at a park, really.

That's how I like to refer to it.

But it's a great culture of people who create.

[ Motor whirring ]

A small video camera on the drone literally gives pilots a bird's-eye view.

While essential to the sport, remotely controlling a flying vehicle this way is definitely a learned skill.

Racing a multirotor is similar to real racing in that you have a course, you're trying to follow that course, and you're trying to go as fast as you possibly can.

But what's different is it starts off a little disorienting for most people.

This is a set of FPV goggles.

It provides a real-time video feed to the camera that's on board.

So this our link to being in control.

Most of the time, you start off flying around.

You're trying to get a feel.

'How high am I?

Am I going up? Am I going down?'

The first time I took off, your equilibrium is so confused.

You're just in a different plane.

You're turning and banking, and your body is sitting still.

It's really awkward.

It takes awhile to get used to it.

You have to operate the throttle, which makes you go up and down.

The ailerons is what makes you bank left and right, the pitch, which makes your nose go up or down, and the rudder, which rotates the quad around the horizontal axis.

All those four controls have to be used at the same time.

And it takes a lot of patience, a lot of practice to be able to master those four controls.

And there is no substitute for 'stick time.'

The more you fly, the better you're gonna get.

And it's not always about how fast you are.

It's how good you fly through the track.

As with any racing sport, the thrill of speed is a big attraction, but MultiGP boasts a huge advantage over others.

As you get older, you get wiser.

You start to mitigate risk.

You're less likely to put yourself at harm.

Here, you're able to race aggressively, head-to-head, in a really exciting format, without the risk of hurting yourself.

It's all the fun of competing in racing without any of the physical risk.

I used to ride sport bikes.

I had a couple bad accidents on it.

I get the same kind of adrenaline rush racing this, and I get to come home in one piece, so mission accomplished.