12 months in the making, 4 feet across and weighing in at over 66 pounds: This is drone racing like you’ve never seen before. This is the Freedom Class giant racing drone, and it’s an absolute monster.
If there’s one major criticism levelled at drone racing, it’s that it lacks some of the dynamics to be a proper spectator sport. The audience is often distant and the result is a limited atmosphere. Not that there’s anything wrong with watching drone racing through a screen or going for an FPV ride-along. But it just feels like something is missing if the sport wants to go to the next level.
A glance at this year’s Super bowl halftime show suggests drones can be used to create a spectacle, but that it’s a matter of scale. Bigger and bolder is better. It’s at this point that we introduce the Freedom Class, a title given to the next generation of competitive drones coming out of Australia.
It’s been in development for a year, and now the Freedom Class Racer prototype has hit 159kph in testing, which is around 100mph. There’s no doubt that this is a huge step for pioneers of the giant racing drone scene, which is really a thing.
And you can see why. Nobody can seriously look at this footage and deny the appeal of 10 of these flying around a track. For some reason, with more size comes more jeopardy – and that’s exactly why many people secretly love motor racing of all kinds. For the chance that things could go wrong, because when they do, there are going to be fireworks.
While we’re sure the development of the Freedom Class will continue to be an expensive and delicate process, the potential for mainstream uptake and the incredible spectacle giant racing drones could provide is enough to get us excited.
On the latest successful tests of the Freedom Class, CTO Leanard Hall said “It was great to see the power train work flawlessly after our early challenges. Given the lack of aerodynamics on the test frame we were very happy to see the power train push the aircraft to 159 km/h. From a spectator’s perspective, the sound was fantastic and the aircraft will be clearly seen and heard from hundreds of meters away.”
“With the handling, We had tuned the aircraft roughly 10% of the potential of the systems in order to accomplish the necessary air time. There is certainly a lot of potential for an increased accuracy of handling that can easily be added to the aircraft.”
As the old saying in the drone industry goes, with great power comes great difficulty arranging insurance and appeasing legislative bodies. In a post, the Freedom Class team said:
“The next few months will see the team focus on V2.0 and continuing to work with the various Australian and International authorities and governing bodies on developing certification, safety, insurance and education.”
Aside from making sure this whole thing is safe and legal, CEO Chris Ballard outlined what’s next for giant drone racing. “Now that we have had successful testing of the V1.0, we will commence sourcing funding for V2.0, where our aim is to pass the 200kph mark. With V2.0 we will be showcasing the next generation in aerodynamic frames and high power systems, amazing crowds with a mixture of speed and sound, all presented in an immersive Virtual Reality environment.”
On top of potentially being much more appealing as a spectator sport, giant racing drones could also carry more sophisticated camera equipment, perhaps even giving viewers a 360-degree view from inside the cockpit. This isn’t the last you’ll hear of Freedom Class.