Sure, drone racing is relatively new to the mainstream media. Even plenty of tech fanatics are surprised at how quickly the sport is taking off. But to assume that FPV racing has come from nowhere does a disservice to the thousands of pioneers around the world who have been organising races and meetups for a not insignificant amount of time. Typically, guys and girls would form local networks and clubs, put together a circuit out of whatever they could find and get racing.
Grassroots racing is still going strong, but FPV events are also growing larger in stature. Suddenly we’ve got the Drone Racing League, the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA), the World Drone Prix – just to name a few. It’s fair to say that things are beginning to get serious. Tracks and radio technology are growing more advanced by the week, drones are getting faster and spectators are expecting more in terms of entertainment. Because of this, the management of these events needs to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry.
As the demand for slick events goes global, one LA startup is trying to take race organization to the next level. But that’s not to say that the software used can’t be applied to smaller events too. In case you haven’t heard of them, we’re talking about Drone Squad. Formed as recently as January this year, Drone Squad’s FPV race management software allows users to plan and manage Drone Racing events with the world watching on. It’s already been used at an official IDRA event in LA, and, according to our colleagues at Propwashed who witnessed things first-hand, solved a couple of issues that have impacted on competition events in the past.
“Most events we have been to in the past year have gone way longer than scheduled and have tremendous amounts of downtime,” says Propwashed’s vesp. One thing the Drone Squad application does to combat this is show and notify pilots of the heat lineups, allowing them to get ready ahead of time and avoiding delays. It sounds pretty minimal in impact, but you’d be surprised how much can be saved in terms of time and resources with an automated system as simple as that.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Before a Drone Squad-backed event has even started, pilots can open the app and discover local meetups. Organisers benefit when putting together an event, too. Through the app they can schedule and promote events, send out information and get RSVPs.
It’s arguably at the event itself when Drone Squad comes into its own. In their own words, Drone Squad allows you to “Run your event like a boss”. And who doesn’t want that? This capability includes automatic line-ups and heat management, notifications to pilots to alert them of upcoming heats, real-time statistics and leaderboards, customizable frequency charts to keep pilots racing safely and built-in drone safety checks.
Drone Squad helps racing become a spectator sport
One of the main issues facing FPV drone racing is how to make it a viable spectator sport. Some events have featured ‘Ride-Along’ FPV headsets to help the crowd get involved in the action. Others have been held completely behind closed doors and edited down into more watchable episodes later on.
Drone Squad CEO Pete Mauro was kind enough to answer some of our questions, and he pointed out some of the clear benefits to spectators of events that use Drone Squad.
“Spectators love the real time information that Drone Squad provides on race day,” he said. “We first learned this at the Drone Nationals qualifier in LA when our app was used by 200 spectators to follow the race. Everyone knew who was racing, what channel they were on so they could tune in and who was in the lead. Our platform also powered a big screen in the pilot area for at-a-glance information.”
And what about the future? Surely there are a bunch of ways this already obviously useful app can evolve?
Naturally, Mauro agrees.
“Since our cloud-based software was built from the ground up to support real-time data, it’s easy for us to add hardware like timing systems,” he said. “But why stop at just reporting lap times when you can report who is in the lead right now? Or display that information on top a live-stream? We don’t think ESPN should be the only ones that that should be able to create a compelling race experience. We want to give those tools to anyone, anywhere.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Drone Squad, or want to download the app, register and try it out for yourself, visit the company’s website here, or check it out in the Apple Store or on Google Play