Friday, August 19, 2016

Drone Racing and Shooting

Went to a drone race Thursday as part of the entertainment. The little (about 9 in square) critters are fast, agile, and flown from remote seats using VR goggles. The venue was indoors at a place called the Glitter Dome which also features Roller Derby. Lighting was what you would expect from a nightclub with the volume turned up appropriately. 4 drones are raced at a time with scoring being the number of laps completed in 2 minutes. The course features aluminum pylons with moving concert lights attached, and cloth draped between the floor and ceiling in an artistic manner. The craft alternate between flying under the drapes and over them up near the ceiling. Here are 4 pilots ready to begin:

Teams are identified by color and the drones have similarly colored lights on them. As they pass by the "front straight" the infamous pedal air gun is poised to have a shot at them using "nerf" darts made from pipe insulation.
An audience member gets to pedal the gun and take as many shots as he or she can in the alloted 2 minutes. As it happened, the first shot in the first race took a drone down by hitting one of the cloth drapes and having the drone hit the dart as it was falling. This knocked a critical wire loose and grounded the drone for the duration of that heat. The rest of the evening went about as I had expected with several near misses and the drones taking themselves out by flying into the netting, the drapes, the walls, each other or whatever else was available.

In the last heat of the night the second hit on a drone happened, a good shot tagging the back side of one, giving it a bit of a speed boost but doing no damage. 2 total hits for the entire evening was about the high end of what I had expected. Both hits by the way were made by women. The audience seemed to be rooting for the gunners.

The pits looked a lot like the pits at a Critter Crunch robot fighting competition with dozens of nerds busily putting the finishing touches on their machines. Here there were a lot more laptops involved.
The indoor venue made for a very busy course with tight turns and lots of obstacles. Some of the pilots were good enough to give a trained fighter pilot cause to worry. There were cameras placed strategically around the course so there may be some You Tube video at some point showing drones racing, crashing, and getting hit by foam darts. Here's the course from a pilots POV:

 I'm seeing the next generation of fighter pilots flying from a hanger or a passenger plane a long ways from the actual battle space. The next generation of fighters will be limited only by the ultimate structural strength of the air frame.

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