When Drones Go Pro

As Drone Racing Grows Up, Hobbyists Preserve Its Heart





” I am standing behind a stack of boxes in a warehouse in Fremont, 15 miles north of San Jose.

Bzzz! Bzzz! Bzzz!

  Three drones whiz by at highway speeds as I clutch a cardboard shield close to my face. They turn sideways as they navigate a corner and then right themselves before ducking under an arch. After rounding two more turns, they fly over the finish line of the drone-racing course.

  The pilots, sitting behind a black net a few meters away, wear headsets that display a live stream from the camera affixed to their respective drones. Their thumbs fiddle with the joysticks on their controllers. From their stoic faces, it’s hard to tell they are rocketing through the air at 50 miles per hour.

  Many of these pilots are professional athletes. They travel the world competing for drone-racing titles, which are beginning to carry hefty purses thanks to the money pouring into the sport. One year ago, it would have been almost impossible to call yourself a professional drone racer. Today, however, a select few are leaving their day jobs to pursue the sport full time.”


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