The big white Drone Racing tent at the West Entrance to the Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 is drawing huge crowds to see the fantastic drone sports action this year! ASL (Aerial Sports League) has put on various classes and qualifier drone races and competitive battle drone demonstrations, utilizing all DIY sporting drones built by the pilots that fly them!
Since this was my first time at the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA, I wasn’t quite sure what to prepare for. Luckily, we were able to get in a bit early with the Media, so we could do a quick scan of most of the key zones and pavilions throughout the faire – specifically the FPV Drone Racing tent and Battle Drones cage.
Since the drones used in these events and exhibitions are home built, DIY creations with a lot of ingenuity and creativity, they’re a perfect fit for the Maker Faire and its audience.
Founder and CEO of ASL (Aerial Sports League), Marque Cornblatt is no stranger to Maker Faire, with involvement since the first year with telepresence robots and other projects such as the Water Boy project at Maker Faire 2010 with OK GO for their “Underwater” performance.
But since the whole drone sports thing has taken off, Marque and his organization have brought drone racing and battle drones to Maker Faire 5 times since 2014, including twice in NYC. This is their 3rd year in the Bay Area and it was bigger and better than ever.
There were three main events going on simultaneously throughout the faire: FPV Drone Racing, Combat Battle Drones, and Drone Deisgn Competition with design and build workshops leading up to the faire for weeks prior at Hiller Aviation Museum in San Francisco.
FPV Drone Racing
The racing at this year’s Maker Faire Drone Sports World was hosted inside a large enclosed tent with a lighted track and netting surround to keep the everyone safe.
The sub-250gr FPV racers, dubbed as the “Outlaw Micro” class, seemed to work perfectly for this rather small indoor track.
This was an ASL event and featured some National qualifier races over the 3-days. Pilots and volunteer staff varied and with support and participation of other league members such as IDRA (International Drone Racing Association).
It was truly a well-organized and professional event and a great public demonstration of how these races can work inside of another venue. Something to watch for in upcoming tradeshows and similar tech events.
Crowds packed-in on Saturday and Sunday to catch a glimpse of the racing excitement – creating long lines of people wanting to get into the tent to share in the excitement of drone racing live.
The course setup included live FPV camera feeds onto large monitors mounted around the track so everyone could see a real-time view from the various racing drones. This really adds to the thrill of the race and gives the viewers an idea of just what the FPV pilots are seeing with their goggles.
For many folks, this was the first time they’ve ever seen a drone of any kind in-person, let alone experience the thrill of live drone racing – just the way the pilots themselves navigate their craft’s movement sitting several feet away.
And of course there are duals and crashes in flight – mostly unintentional but pushing the limits of these agile craft in a tight space to beat the clock calls for some serious adrenaline pumping!
Here’s a recorded FPV video from one of the participating racers from this weekend, Shawn Allison:[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/LPavokYBkGw”]
Combat Battle Drones
One of the things I was first attracted to ASL was their Combat Battle Drones in the Bay Area, through their “Game of Drones” channel prior to forming the Aerial Sports League. Their Hiro battle quadcopter frames are nearly indestructible and a great way to get into this fun and challenging sport. They offer several build-n-fly workshops around the Bay Area, so join their Facebook group to keep up on all their local and national events.
You can imagine that the Combat Battle Drones were just as popular as the Racing Drones and the crowds flocked to the cage over the weekend event!
So I of course spent a great deal of my time around the Combat Drone Cage at Maker Faire on Friday during the media preview, and was offered a chance to fly in the cage and battle it out with some of their staff pilots and instructors. I can’t tell you how strange it is at first to intentionally fly your drone INTO another drone on purpose, when you’ve spent years perfecting your skills to do just the opposite! We kind of joked about binging our DJI Inspires into the cage… but nobody was laughing at the thought of that!
Here’s some video I shot of both the ASL Racing and Battle Drones on Friday, including some awesome 240fps SloMo action: [iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/-MXC2jIUB8w”]
It’s truly addictive and really fun to watch these ASL drones battle it out! There are rules for the actual competition as well – not just pure carnage:
Rules of Drone Combat:
Standard drone combat consists of two drones fighting head to head in a pre-defined arena. The objective is to knock the opponent’s drone to the floor while avoiding your own drone hitting the floor.
Combat starts with each drone ready-to-fly and idling in a designated landing zone or ring. At the sound of the buzzer, each drone lifts into the air.
Each player begins with 3 points. One point is deducted each time a player’s drone touches the floor. The first player to reach 0 points is declared the loser.
If combat results in both drones hitting the floor at the same time or within 3 seconds of each other, then both players loses a point. However, a game-winning point or “kill” point can NOT be obtained if both drones hit the floor at the same time or within 3 seconds of each other (ie. The winning drone must NOT hit the floor with 3 seconds of the losing drone hitting the floor for final kill point).
Each time a drone crashes, Pilots have 90 seconds to lift off again. During this time they are permitted to enter the arena to make emergency repairs, replace batteries & parts or make adjustments to their drone. Pilots have 90 seconds to get their drone flying or they are eliminated from the match. During this time the healthy drone is allowed to land and rest. If for any reason a drone hits the floor outside of the ring upon landing or otherwise crashes or can’t lift-off again, it will lose a point as if it had crashed in combat.
Matches end at 5 minutes. The drone with the highest score will be declared the winner. If there is a tie, the winner will be determined by tennis ball firing squad or sudden death.
Check out this unique “Web-slinging drone” video from this weekend’s battle from 16yr old Kyle Ettinger who took first place![iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/6_eMxE2YUMk”]
I have to say I’m hooked – on both the Maker Faire and ASL’s drone racing and battle drones, and can’t wait to attend more events and workshops!
For more information about the Maker Faire, check out their website.