By @SimonCocking

When did you take up the sport?

I built my first couple of drones early 2014. There was a video released from a few guys racing in the woods around that time.

After seeing this, I knew this is what I was craving for. A machine capable of such agility, and speed. But able to fly in the most confined areas. The best of all, you are part of the machine, as you would fly from the perspective of the drone. I build my first racer a few months only after completing my first quadcopters. I was immediately hooked to this scene.

For those who don’t know what it is, how would you describe it?

It is a drone that could fit inside your dinner plate. These drones are called miniquads.They have a CCTV camera mounted in the front of the frame, and the pilot will see the live video feed transmitted to his goggles.

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As you get into miniquads, you will start off with lower power machines. They are not that fast, around 35km/h top speed. Radio and video range around 150 meters.

We would set up race gates, or poles, and lay out a track on a open field. Multiple racers would fly around the track (at the same time), to set the fastest lap times. We call this practise FPV Racing. FPV stands for First Person View.

For me the best way to describe it, is that it feels like you are one of those guys jumping out of the planes with wing suits, and flying between canyons and trees. But if you crash, you don’t get injured; only a walk of shame to collect the remains of the machine.

How big is the Irish FPV community currently? And how many in Dublin, and the rest of the country?

The Irish community is currently around the 200 member mark. We don’t have the exact numbers per county currently. We are starting to set up regional clubs, which would track the pilots, and their performance more closely. We can see the member number increasing on a daily basis.

You have a cool youtube channel – any plans for the future for it?

My initial youtube channel was created way before I even dreamt of FPV. I just posted my progress as I flew each day. I have started a new youtube channel recently, and will purely focus on the FPV Racing and miniquad events in Ireland. I will also give tips on building, flying, and general issues I will run into.

What drone did you use at Nationals? What do you like about it?

I had two drones built for the nationals. The main one was a custom build ZMR 250 frame. It weighs 660g, and produces around 3.8kg of thrust. A good friend helped to make some 3D printed parts, to change it from the original design.

My backup quadcopter was a premade one called the Vortex, from ImmersionRC. This is not as fast as my ZMR, but it is reliable, and could use it incase the ZMR had a malfunction.

What was your involvement with the 2015 Nationals, and how did you feel it went?

I was the Frequency Coordinator for the event. Because we are using analogue video streaming from the drones to the pilots, we needed to ensure that all the frequencies, and hardware is correctly set up. Especially with the large numbers of pilots on the day.The nationals went great. This was the first time we hosted such a big event, and the reviews were positive from both pilots and spectators. Expect a much bigger event in 2016 :).

What tips would you give to people starting out?

Firstly I would get in contact with our Facebook group (FPV-Ireland), we provide guidance and tips for everyone interested to race, or even just learn to fly these racing drones. Once you get your first drone, doesn’t matter if it is a racer, or a photography drone (E.g. DJI Phantom). Find an area which is safe to fly at. The general rule is stay 5km away from airports, and do not fly higher than 50 feet. Also do not fly within 30 meters of people or vehicles.

What cool things can you do with a drone?

Too many things to list :). Overtime you get familiar with your drone, you are able to squeeze in small areas, do flips, and fly really fast, and very close to the ground and around objects.

Have you owned many?

I have owned many drones in the last year alone. Many of them projects which are never finished. I’d say I have spare parts which could build many drones at this stage. I would have 3 drones ready to fly at any given moment.

Is it an expensive sport to do? What would you need if you were starting out and where would you recommend getting it from?

The most expensive part is getting started. The radio transmitter, and video goggles, batteries and charger, tend to be the most expensive cost at first. But it is important that you buy good quality items at the start, as they will last you many years into the hobby.

The actual quadcopter itself is not very expensive, and with the type of flying we do, it is replaced every few months or so. I recommend to get my gear from RadioControlledShop.ie. David is a great guy, and always looking after his customers. Also next day delivery, which you can’t beat 🙂

How fast has the sport developed?

Immensely fast. In 2014 we had to learn the basics of Arduino programming to get our copters flying with MultiWii software. Now we have open source communities (Cleanflight and Betaflight) pushing the limits of what the processors can do. Our main issue is video and radio control latency. If you fly at 25m/s, every millisecond of latency matters. It is the difference between be able to avoid the tree, or hitting it bang on.

We can expect better hardware each month, and software updates almost on a weekly basis. It is unreal how fast a community driven by pilots can develop.

What can we expect to see in 2016 and beyond?

You will see more organised and sponsored events. There is already a championship in Dubai this year where first place is one million dollars. For Ireland, we are looking forward to the Irish Drone Nationals in 2016. It will be a nice summer time event, with lots of activities for all ages.

Are there any clubs currently for this racing scene in Ireland?

We have set up the Leinster FPV Club, which covers this region for organised events. For anyone wanting to get involved into this scene, or even would like to learn to be a better pilot, please feel free to contact us.


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