The British Drone Racing Association (BDRA) are a specialist body of the British Model Flying Association and organise drone racing events, international team selection events and national championships in the UK.
Drone Racing is an ever-growing side of model flying and is very much recognised as a sport it in its own right.
Many people ask us here at the British Drone Racing Association (BDRA) how they can get started with Drone Racing – or how they find their first race to attend – which hopefully the points below will assist with.
Images courtesy of: Simon Pow, Julian Whitfield, Leo Whitfield
Where do you find practice events, races or generally other people in my area interested in Drone Racing?
The BDRA website is a great place to start at www.bdra.uk where all national qualifying events (which feed into the National Leaderboard for the end of year championships) are listed there as well as links on how to sign up to compete.
Other than that – take to social media, particularly Facebook, and join the 2 main FPV Racing groups for the UK - these are called FPV Racing UK and UK FPV Racing & Freestyle. Post up in these groups with your general location and other drone pilots may then point you towards smaller, local, groups where race events are held.
I do not seem to be able to find anyone into Drone Racing close to me – how do I get started?
You can start very basic with getting yourself a few race gates, cones and flags – and hopefully a friendly local landowner!
Race gates and flags can be made in a ‘DIY style’ with PVC tubes and some old banners or fabric attached – or you can buy gates from various online sources with ‘tent pole’ like construction.
Cones to mark the track out are also useful – and usually, it's only a stack of the ‘football’ style cones that are needed that can be picked up relatively cheaply online. White is usually the chosen colour as these can be seen easily in the FPV camera.
Once you get started, trust us, other people will find you. as the saying goes ‘build it and they will come’.
What type of drone do I need to compete in Drone Racing?
A ‘race drone’ is the preferred equipment for Drone Racing. These tend to be built up of parts that the pilot has selected. Sadly, mainstream drone equipment – such as the off the shelf products from DJI – do not have the durability or systems capability to take part in a drone race.
There are both pre-built and ‘kit’ options to building a racing drone – but you very quickly learn how to fix them if you buy a pre-built model! As a general rule of thumb, as the drone has an analogue 5.8ghz video transmitter (VTx), 2.4GHz or 868Mhz control system has a prop size of 6 inches or under and carrying less than a 6S (6 cell battery pack) then you are good to go.
Support of digital video systems – such as those produced by DJI and Fat Shark – are still in their infancy when it comes to ‘group flying’ and the BDRA are running test events this year to assess their suitability for use in race environments for the 2022 season.
Ensure you know the basic settings of your drone/quadcopter kit.
As part of sign-in at any race event you will attend, and even for etiquette at local clubs or race meets, you should be familiar with changing your Video Transmitter (VTX) channel and power on your equipment to not interfere with other pilots. Failsafe from your Transmitter should also be set to ‘cut’ motors – so if you ever lose connection to your race drone it will gracefully drop from the sky rather than going full throttle into the blue yonder!
How can I give Drone Racing a try without worrying about breaking my drone?
Do not fear – the simulator world of Drone Racing is too ever-growing and there are some great simulators out there for both PC and Game Consoles. Just some of the simulators favoured by pilots are VelociDrone, Lift Off, Rotor Rush, Drone Racing League (DRL) and Drone Champions League (DCL – The Game).
All these simulators should allow you to connect your Transmitter to them (certainly if running the PC based versions) so you can build up that ‘muscle memory in your fingertips to get ready for real-world racing.
Some of these simulators even hold competitions in the ‘virtual world’ for either prizes or a seat at a real-world race event. These simulators are used by newbies and pro’s alike!
I feel I am ready for a race – what should I know for my first race day?
Drone race days tend to be a relatively laid-back affair full of friendly people who will help you through your first few races.
The race organisers will send you out a Pilot Pack around 1-2 weeks before the event –please ensure you read this thoroughly especially if it's your first event with that particular organiser. Familiarise yourself with your initial heat and VTx channel, who your spotter will be (this is usually the person on your VTx channel in the heat after you) and any safety messages included.
For a couple of the basics – head back to point 3 above around Failsafe and VTx settings requirements – as you will need to demonstrate the usage of these at check-in and throughout a race day.
Safety rules are mainly common sense – such as no arming of your drones in the pit area or on the flight line whilst other pilots are setting up their drone for a race. You will also need to ensure you have public liability insurance – which of course is provided as part of a membership with the BMFA.
How much does attending a drone race cost?
BDRA National Qualifying events vary between £25-£35 depending on the organisers and the venues they are held at. Any BDRA events have at least a £2 per event discount for BDRA members (which costs just £10 per year)
Fun Fly events – such as those held by local groups – can be £5-20 again depending on the venue, event length and how complex their track equipment and race session/day offering is.
Some local clubs run their yearly membership packages and have set days/evenings every week (particularly through the summer months) where everyone pitches in to help setup a track and have a good few hours of racing. Refer back to Point 1 above to find out where you may be able to fly locally.
If you require any further information or assistance with getting into Drone Racing then please do not hesitate to contact the British Drone Racing Association (BDRA) via their website at www.bdra.uk