Racing Drones: 5 Fast Facts02:47

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Fact #1. The first unmanned military aircraft buzzed like a bee. Those who witnessed it in action started calling it a drone because of this. Today’s slick and compact consumer racing drones hardly resemble their military predecessors. Most military drones have a single rotor and fixed wings, or are jet powered. Racing and consumer drones are based on a four-rotor design nearly as old as manned flight.

Fact #2. The earliest quadcopters were regarded by some engineers and inventors as a possible alternative to the dominant fixed-wing design. Promoted for their vertical takeoff potential, these primitive quadcopters were unstable and challenging to pilot. For this reason, the design was largely abandoned for decades. Eventually, components like flight controllers, cameras, and GPS units became smaller and more affordable. This resulted in drones being produced in increasing numbers by the military and hobbyists alike.

Fact #3. Manufacturers of the first consumer drones enhanced the aged quadcopter design. It proved stable and nimble. They’re almost exclusively powered by batteries, which grow smaller and more powerful every year. Thanks to this improved battery capacity, drones are now used in disaster areas to establish emergency communication.

Fact #4. Consumers and researchers have found many applications for the cameras aboard most drones. They’re now used on film shoots and deployed by photographers worldwide. Cameras are also used in auto-follow drones, which can lock on and move in synchronization with a target. Competitors and observers in drone racing rely on these cameras, as well. Onboard cameras grant the operator a first-person view useful in navigation.

Fact #5. Drone racing started as an amateur sport in Australia in 2014. It has since spread throughout the world. Racing drones are typically assembled with lighter weight components than other models. They feature more powerful electric motors. While this makes the quadcopter faster and more agile, it also makes them challenging to pilot. The best drone pilots have steady hands and quick reaction times.

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