BEEP, beep, beep! And we’re off. I’m lifted into the air, vertically at first, then levelling off as a huge forward thrust kicks in. My stomach lurches as we hit 70 kilometres per hour on the approach to the first bend. Taking a tight line through the curve, we’re thrown into a hard left, turning on the spot. Then we’re into the next straight, accelerating again. But at 80 km/h, disaster strikes. Banking into another turn I’m suddenly spinning so fast I’m nauseous. The ground hurtles towards me. Everything goes black.
I take off the goggles. But this out-of-body experience was no virtual reality game. I’m in a damp field near Grantham, UK, riding shotgun with 32 pilots taking part in the first. They are flying radio-controlled multicopters – small drones with four, six or even eight rotors – fitted with cameras that beam video from the drone’s perspective directly to pilots’ and spectators’ headsets. The first-person view (FPV) creates the sensation of hurtling around the course in mid-air yourself.
Until recently, FPV drone racing was little more than a niche hobby. But more and more people around the globe are getting involved – soon you’ll even be seeing it on TV. Welcome to one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
In Grantham, the pilots twist, jerk and grimace as their drones perform acrobatics. Their faces contort as they will their craft to go faster and squeeze through the smallest gap. They wince when they fail. “Leonardo da Vinci had a dream …
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