What’s faster than a horse but slower than a race car? A drone, which clocks in at 40 to 60 mph.
Fair attendees Thursday and Friday can catch more than 100 of them in the first U.S. national drone racing competition, hosted by Flying Grounds and the California State Fair.
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The founder and CEO of Flying Grounds, Scot Refsland, said competitors will follow California high-speed style racing rules, flying drones with 250 class multirotor airframes.
The three types of competitions will be team, freestyle, and speed and agility. In freestyle, drones are judged on acrobatic ability: flipping, rolling, funneling and maneuvering through obstacles. Teams will be judged on cumulative times.
“It could come down to milliseconds as to who’s gonna be the faster racer across that finish line,” said Refsland, who is also the race director for the competition.
Attendees will be able to get a drone’s-eye-view of the race, as every drone will have a pilot camera and video transmitter hooked up to a live feed. Refsland warns that audience members and pilots could experience vertigo.
Other state fair drone competitions include a combat cage – like “ultimate cage fighting with drones,” the last one standing is the winner, Refsland said.
Tommy “Ummagawd” Tibajia, freestyle competitor from Huntington Beach, was hooked after seeing a drone at Coachella two years ago.
“When I’m behind the goggles I think about myself as a bird,” he said. “The rest of the world shuts out for me.”
Competitor Zoe Katherine Stumbaugh said she is most excited about meeting pilots she has admired online.
“It is going to be a bunch of old friends that I’ll get to meet for the first time,” she said. “The competition is secondary to meeting these people.”
That suits Refsland, who said the inaugural event hopes to “foster community innovation.”
Prizes total $25,000.
Katie Strong: 916-321-1101, @katielstrong