As long as you aren't flying them around the Golden Gate Bridge (you're not supposed to do that, guys) or attacking or spying on someone with yours, drones are a nifty hobby. Tinkerers have taken to them heartily, and now Backchannel has the details on the latest local drone race, which was just held in Santa Cruz.
Not only is it a drone race — and that's something — but it's a first-person view or FPV drone race. With goggles, you see the world through the eyes of your racing drone, speeding through an obstacle course against others drones and yes, sometimes crashing and burning along the way. "This is a video game set in reality," says Backchannel, "Ender’s Game come to life."
Previously pilots controlled drones using line of sight from the ground. But ever-faster processing speeds — catalyzed by the hot smartphone market — and dropping costs have allowed recreational drones to carry sharp onboard cameras. This imagery transmits fast enough that amateur pilots can don a pair of goggles — think Star Trek’s Geordi LaForge — and watch a first person point of view of the craft. They race “in” the cockpit.
The winner of the Santa Cruz race was a local 24-year-old woman, something of an underdog, operating a hexacopter at lightning speeds. “Months of practice paying off,” she said. This is her video.