Flying High: State Drone Championships in Olowalu
Maui FPV Drone Racing will present the first-ever Hawai‘i State FPV Championships in Olowalu at the Maui Paintball field on Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26.
First-person-view (FPV) racers of all ages and from all over the state will come to Maui to race it out for those spots.
The competitors will be vying for 10 spots in the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships in October at Kuaola Ranch on O‘ahu, where Jurassic Park was filmed.
They are also competing for five spots at the 2016 US National Drone Racing Championships in New York in August.
“This is a Hawai‘i-resident-only event that several of us Maui guys organized along with O‘ahu members, and with the support and blessing of Drone Nationals,” Byron Yap, a drone racing enthusiast.”
Yap said organizers expect about 40 statewide participants.
“Ethan Gulnac from Kīhei is among the top10 flyers in the world,” said Yap. He is 15 years old and will try to take all the top spots.
Members of the Hawaii Drone Racing, the Big Island’s local team, are also honing their skills in preparation of the state championships.
“The team has been working hard for this since the start of the year,” said Richard Molina, drone pilot and Hawaii Drone Racing team leader. “We are expected to bring strong opposition to Neighbor Island racers.”
“This is our big chance to join the rest of the world and present Hawai‘i as a serious contender on the international drone racing circuit,” said HDR Drone Pilot Al Sanchez.
HDR’s membership exceeds 120 and is growing daily. Currently, six pilots are ready to compete.
“When most people think of drones, they think of camera or video drones, such as the DJI or Yuneec brands,” Molina explained. “They are white, four-armed beasts with a camera hanging under them.
“Racing drones are much different,” said Molina. “Racing drones are designed to move at breakneck speeds and do maneuvers that would make any seasoned jet pilot lose their lunch.”
These drones are custom-built, made-from-scratch machines that conform to the standards of the racing circuit, according to Molina.
“Reaching speeds in excess of 60 mph while zipping in and out of turns and obstacles, these drones are amazing to watch,” Molina said.
“Its even more amazing when you think about the pilot controlling it by watching the image from the drone’s camera while wearing goggles,” said Molina. “This allows pilots to fly as if they were actually inside the drone itself. This is called “first person view” or FPV.
“The sensation is truly like you’re inside the drone flying,” said Molina.
Drone racing came about a few years ago and is becoming a mainstream sport very very quickly, Molina said. Just about every nation has races on all levels. The sport has gained so much attention that ESPN has announced that it will be covering drone racing as part of its racing curriculum.
Major sponsors are starting to sign racers for their teams.
“We see this sport as the next Formula One,” Molina said.
Prizes for these races are also increasing in value. Last month in Dubai, the winner was awarded $250,000, said Molina.
“This fueled the race community and has since exploded its memberships across the world,” said Molina.
We truly feel this is the start of something big, and our group is on the cutting edge of this sport,” said Molina. “I am very confident that those in this sport right now are going to be the superstars of tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of our local members became famous?”
The competition begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and will continue from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Maui Paintball is located at 814 Honoapi‘ilani Highway.