The first ever DroneClash tournament promises fire, carnage, broken glass and thousands of dollars in smashed quadcopters. The competition, which is scheduled for December 4 in a former Navy base in the Netherlands, is basically BattleBots in mid-air, with teams of drones competing to smash their opponents out of the sky.
The competition will feature four stages of difficult flying maneuvers and tests like breaking through plaster, popping balloons, swooping through rings, and dodging flames, all while battling with other opponent’s drones. Pretty much everything is legal — contestants are invited to bring supplementary drone reinforcements programmed to fight autonomously in support of their primary, first-person-controlled aircraft.
“We wanted to have a cool competition that would combine gaming with science,” Bart Remes, a researcher at Delft University of Technology’s drone lab that is hosting the competition, tells Inverse. “We wanted to make a real-life video game out of it.”
Four teams will compete at once, and each can have literally as many drones as they like. However, they will only be allowed to operate one “queen drone” at a time with the wireless first person goggles often used in drone racing. The queen drone has to be in flight at all times, so it’ll have to also be semi-autonomous if a team wants to switch their view. Following these rules, the teams can have autonomous drones or even fleets of in-sync drones that could contain any number of instruments. There’s plenty of precedent for drones with flamethrowers, net launchers, and Nerf bullets, but the options are truly endless.
“The rules are very open so there are few limitations with creativity,” Remes says.
The teams will start at Battle-1st arena and make their way down the Hallway of Doom, Death, and Destruction to the 4-Queen Palace. If they make it beyond all of the booby traps set up in the hall, they will then have to take down all the other team’s queens in a final battle royale.
The last team standing will be crowned DroneClash champion, or as Remes puts it, “the best drone battler in the world.”
This competition is going to take extreme skills in flying and engineering to make it through all of the obstacles. Remes hopes it will also help advance the technology beyond the competition. “The idea is to bring anti-drone and drone technology to the next level,” Remes says. “We also hope it will help drones become more accepted in daily society.”