The sport of first-person view (FPV) drone racing is still in its infancy. It involves small, custom-built drones with cameras attached to them that broadcast video feeds back to specially-designed goggles that allow pilots to see what the drones see. The drones are fast and nimble, and can hit speeds nearing 70 mph.
Part of the reason for the competition was to bring together racers, enthusiasts, vendors and manufacturers from across the world to forge connections as the sport grows. As the Drone Nationals’ website put it:
“For the inaugural US race, we want to accelerate the spirit of international competition and camaraderie so please come race with us. It will most likely be the only time that you can race as a non resident or citizen.”
Roughly 120 racers competed in Thursday’s time trials and Friday’s seeded races, and a smaller group took part in the freestyle event—all of which were riddled with technical glitches. Some racers struggled to get their drones into the air; others weren’t able to get reliable video footage back to their goggles.
Watch Chad’s FPV video feed of his drone as he wins the race
Nowak put his win down to the fact that he had a reliable video feed throughout the competition. He told Quartz he hadn’t gone into the competition expecting to win—his goal had been “just staying airborne.”
Nowak had only been racing FPV drones for about a year prior to the event, but had been piloting other radio-controlled devices for about a decade.
Here’s a local news report of Chad with his FPV mates racing in a Brisbane parking garage