Drone racing

by Noah Hayden –

Photo: Noah Hayden

Drone racing has been around for nearly 12 years. The sport is a mix between video games and traditional racing sports. The pilot wears a pair of low-profile FPV goggles while controlling a handheld drone that flies up to 120 miles per hour. 

When the sport was initially created in 2011, there was hope that it would become the “sport of the future.” Today, many spectators are seeing that dream become a reality as the sport is reaching new heights in popularity. In fact, the sport doubled its global broadcast reach last year. 

There are many national and local clubs with a passion for drone racing around the world. Virginia Tech is no exception as it has its own club, the VT Drone Racing Team. Despite the overwhelming amount of popularity, the sport has gained over just the last few years, the VT Drone Racing Team has not experienced the same boom.

The VT Drone Racing team experienced a multitude of hiccups over the past couple of years, one of which being Covid-19. “It was just kind of unfortunate that we really couldn’t recruit people from my freshmen year until this year,” said senior and president of the drone racing team, Sean Vredevoogd. “Post covid, we had about five active members.”

The lack of attention that the club was getting from its members also made it difficult to recruit new students even after the heat of the pandemic had passed. “We couldn’t give any of the new members the attention they deserved,” said Vredevoogd. “However, at the last Gobblerfest, we worked hard to prepare for an influx of around 20-25 new members.”

Even though the club met with an influx of new members just last fall, only about 13-14 members consistently participate in club activities. Much of the reason for this is due to how expensive the sport is. According to Benjamin Sawyer from Droneblogs.com, drone racing can cost between $300-$500 initially. Over time, the sport may cost thousands of dollars. 

“Parts break all the time,” said Vredevoogd. “It’s not very feasible to ask Virginia Tech to fund some of our equipment because it breaks so often.” Despite all of those reasons to stop, members continue to fuel their passion.

“It’s simple; there is just nothing like flying these,” said Vredevoogd. “The speed and the maneuverability, it’s just the most open and connecting flying experience.

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