News / Edmonton

Drone championships coming to Edmonton

Pilots from across Canada facing off this weekend one of the first major events for what fans say is a emerging sport.

Adam O’Brien's company, Drone Zone, is one of the sponsors of the Canadian Drone Racing Championships in Edmonton this weekend, and Travis Ames is competing.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Adam O’Brien's company, Drone Zone, is one of the sponsors of the Canadian Drone Racing Championships in Edmonton this weekend, and Travis Ames is competing.

Racing is the next big thing to hit the drone world, and it’s coming to Edmonton.

This weekend sees the first Canadian Drone Racing Championship Cup, held in Edmonton, and it's all is going down in a custom built indoor course on the K-Days grounds.

It’s one of the first major drone races to happen in Canada.

The course features obstacles like bends, curtains and nets that drones must navigate, even as they reach speeds up to 160 km/hr. The people flying them are seated, and wear goggles that allow them to see the feed from a drone-mounted camera, as if they were actually flying.

“I’ve always been into speed and sports, like go karting and racing dirt bikes,” said Travis Ames, one of the almost 30 racers competing for the $1,000 prize this weekend.

“But you’ll get injured riding dirt bikes, but when you’re piloting a drone you can push yourself,” he said, “and when you hit the tree and destroy the drone you’re like, ‘I’m still alive!’”

Ames started racing about eight months ago, and now flies about “10 batteries a day" (because racing drones are so lightweight a battery only lasts three to four minutes, so pilots tend to measure time in battery packs rather than minutes).

Ames said he's looking forward to the weekend to meet new people and learn from other pilots. In such a new field, everyone still has a pretty unique flying style and drone build.

Adam O’Brien, owner of local online shop Drone Zone, the event’s title sponsor, said he hopes the event raises awareness for an up and coming sport.

“Who doesn’t like something that’s small, that goes fast and has crazy control? It’s pretty obvious that these things are not easy to fly, so the difficulty part is cool, too.”

O'Brien added that given Edmonton’s rapidly growing tech sector, the city is a natural fit for drone racing.

Heats for the race will be happening most of the day Saturday and Sunday in Hall A at K Days.

Racing drones are lighter and faster than regular drones.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Racing drones are lighter and faster than regular drones.

What are racing drones?

Drones used for racing are a lot smaller and more agile than the regular drones that have grown in popularity the last few years.

Most pilots build their own, but they generally weigh about 500 grams, including a small battery the size of a key fob. Race classes are divided by the width of propeller, generally between 4 and 6 inches.

Designed for pure speed, race drones usually lack features like GPS lock or return to home that are mostly standard on other drones. Since crashes are inevitable, things that break easily, like battery straps, are made easy to replace.

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