17 Things You Only See at a Professional Drone Race

Surveillance, space suits, and a special type of Champagne shower.

Nickolaus Hines

North America’s premiere drone race, the Drone Sports Association’s Drone Nationals, took place on August 6 and 7. It was broadcasted live on ESPN3 from Governors Island in New York City, and it was hyped as the event that would put drone racing on the map.

First, people had to figure out what drone racing is exactly. It’s been described in the context of current sports as a mix between eSports and NASCAR, and that description feels close to what happens at a drone race. It should also be noted it looks like fucking fun. In the days leading up to the race, a “Day of Drones” event in Bushwick, Brooklyn featured a similar identity crisis. It was sponsored by Mountain Dew and featured, because why not, a performance by Ghostface Killah.

Two high-profile drone events sponsored by big corporate names later, and the world can see it’s more of a miniature version of pod racing on Tatooine than Dale Earnhardt Jr. turning left. Here are a few things that you will only see at a professional drone race.

Left shark, but the head version.

Nickolaus Hines

17. Professional Competitors Wearing Shark Hats

In a sea of black hats, one shark hat could be seen bobbing and weaving through the crowd of pilots the entire weekend.

Why not spray sweet, sweet victory Champagne all over $500 goggles?

Drone Sports Association

16. Champagne Showers With FPV Goggles

Zachry Thayer, AKA A_Nub, won the solo competition. His teammate Jesse Perkins is spraying the ‘pagne, but decided against taking off his $500-plus FPV goggles first.

Bulbasaur? Bobba Fet? Both?

Nickolaus Hines

15. Pokémon and Star Wars Name Mashing

Can’t choose if you are more of a Pokémon fan or Star Wars fan? Mix together some names and forget making a choice! Take Bulba from Bulbasaur in Pokemon Go and Boba Fett from Star Wars, of course.

Who needs live sports when you can watch it not live while being there.

Nickolaus Hines

14. Spectators Using Video Screens While 10 Feet From the Event

Sure, the bleachers are right next to the track. But drones are small, fast, and extremely hard to follow.

Sleepy time.

Nickolaus Hines

13. Sleeping Competitors

It’s hard to blame the racers here. There is a lot of down time in drone racing.

Notice anything nostalgia-inducing around the neck of the guy on the left?

Drone Sports Association

12. That Ball-in-cup Game That Everyone Forgot About

Remember back in the day when life’s pleasures were simple, and all kids needed to be entertained was a ball and a stick with two different sized holders? That day is long gone for most people, but not for drone racers apparently. Perhaps it helps with coordination.

Drone flying, but digital.


11. Virtual Drone Practice in an Isolated Tent

Who needs the outdoors and all its bugs and sun when the same drone flying experience can be found right next to the track in an isolated, shaded tent?

A metaphor for how the sport is shooting for the stars?

Nickolaus Hines

10. A Giant Space Suit

We don’t know either.

The sport is better through goggles, no matter how close the track is.

Nickolaus Hines

9. Zoned-in Spectators

Sometimes the best view is one that is impervious to distance.

In his own world.

Nickolaus Hines

8. Virtual Reality Zones

Flying drones isn’t the only thing that requires a headset at Drone Nationals.

Watching, always watching.

Nickolaus Hines

7. Constant From-the-air Surveillance

Drone races are straight out of Lolly Whitehill’s worst dreams.

The perfect toss takes dedication.

Drone Sports Association

6. Plane Launches

Fixed wing aircraft got some love at Drone Nationals as well. Although they take a little more work to get in the air than quadcopters.

Nice crash newb.

Drone Sports Association

5. Instantaneous Judgment From Competitors

Fear not, people who are afraid of confrontation. Drone sports allow your competitors to laugh at you via video.

Shark hat, but backwards.

Drone Sports Association

4. Backwards Shark Hats on the Winners Podium

Remember the pilot with the shark hat from above? His name is Chad Nowak, and he won first in the freestyle competition.

Soldering everywhere.

Alden Nusser

3. Soldering Irons Everywhere

On-site construction is very necessary during drone races. That means soldering. Lots and lots of soldering.

The results of a crash.

Alden Nusser

2. Drones in Nets

Crashes are one of the delights of watching drone races. Nets and propellors make for an interesting combination, however.

Drone video, or that taped-over recording of Full House from 1992?

Alden Nusser

1. VHS-Quality Video Feeds

Drone racing is high tech. Unfortunately, the cameras aren’t always as advanced, and sometimes the video feeds racers use look like old VHS recordings.