Parent/Child Project: Building a Backyard Micro Drone Track
Father Michael Rollins, with his children, Ava and Logan, enjoying drone racing PHOTO: Mike Henrie
These are not your father’s R/C models! It is truly stunning how quickly radio controlled model technology has advanced in the last decade. Modern R/C equipment is far more user-friendly and affordable than the models of old, which makes getting into this rewarding hobby much easier than before. One of the coolest R/C models for new pilots to get into are micro drones. These pint-sized flying machines can fit in the palm of your hand, have protective covers over the propellers, and can be fitted with First Person View (FPV) camera/transmitter bundles. This allows the pilot, through the use of VR-style video goggles, to navigate the craft from the perspective of the drone. This is micro drone racing, one of the fastest growing race classes in the MultiGP Drone Racing league.
The best aspect of micro drone racing is that it is something that most anyone can enjoy right in their own backyard. A great parent – child project is constructing, and flying, a micro drone race track in you backyard. This is something that you can enjoy even if your micro drone does not have FPV equipment! A micro drone race track is small enough that you can see, and navigate, the entire course from one location. Micro drone race tracks can be assembled in very little time with items that you already have around the house, or in the yard; you and your child (or parent) will be able to build and fly in the same day.
Be creative! Micro drones are so small that almost anything can be used as a racing gate to pass through; two rakes set up like a triangle, patio furniture, legs of a table, a tire swing, hula-hoops, let your imagination go wild. Once you have some race gates, now you need to come up with a track design. Take a good survey of your yard. Avoid water obstacles! Gates like hoops can be hung from the branches of trees to create varying height on your track. For beginners, plan a simple track layout until you get the handle of piloting your drone. Because micro drone tracks are so easy to set up, you can change the layout quickly and easily. A great place to look for ideas for your micro race track layout is on the MultiGP website in the Universal Time Trial (UTT) Track section. Here you will find 5 different track layouts for you to use for inspiration. The micro drones are about ¼ the size of the drones that race the UTTs, so you can take the dimensions of the track and divide them by 4 (16 feet between gates becomes 4 feet, etc.).
Be sure to practice, practice, practice. One of the most important parts of being a good drone racing pilot is to “fly without thinking about flying”. By practicing you are creating muscle-memory; you are teaching your muscles the movements they need to make to move the drone smoothly around the track. The top drone pilots in MultiGP will tell you that repetition of maneuvers is what makes you smoother, which makes you faster. If you are interested in finding out more drone racing pointers from top MultiGP pilots, click here for a link to our “Tips and Tricks” series.
Recently micro “All-In-One” (AIO) video transmitter/camera assemblies have been released. These are so small (about the size of a stamp) that they can be attached to almost any micro drone, allowing you to turn it into a FPV micro race drone. This allows your to take the action to the next level! Flying your micro drone with FPV goggles will let you fly with even more precision and control; being able to see from the perspective of your drone makes it easier to line up on race gates and navigate around obstacles. Many pilots find it easier to fly FPV than by watching the drone (called line of sight, or LOS). After you get the hang of piloting your micro drone through the goggles, you will be ready to hit the track!
When you want to take your skills outside your backyard, there is a MultiGP race chapter near you. There you will find other FPV pilots who love to race and talk about drones. Any questions you have about drone racing, either micro or full-sized, they will be more than happy to answer. You will even be able to test your FPV drone racing skills against them, competing in one of the several different race classes that make up the MultiGP Drone Racing league. In the smallest size class – Tiny Whoop, named after the popular “Tiny Whoop” micro FPV drone created by Jesse Perkins, pilots are flying and competing with sub-micro drones that fit in your hand. MultiGP Tiny Whoop race events have been held everywhere from offices, to warehouses, to bowling alleys.
These fascinating little drones are just as fun and exciting as their larger counterparts, just in a smaller package. They are a great way for families to get outside and enjoy some friendly competition. Piloting a drone helps improve eye-hand coordination, and building them increases your knowledge of STEM. What a great opportunity to connect with your children and teach the some important lessons while having fun. So grab your micro drones, head over the www.multigp.com for some track ideas, and get outside and have fun!
About MultiGP Drone Racing:
MultiGP is the premier drone racing league which hosts frequent competitive gatherings and casual events within its network of over 900 MultiGP Chapters and 14,000 pilots world-wide. MultiGP nurtures its Chapters by providing tools, guidance and community to make drone racing fun, organized and rewarding for pilots, Chapter Organizers and spectators. Programming such as the Championship, Regional Series, Universal Time Trial Tracks and Chapter Tiers are designed to allow the drone racing community to compete in an easily accessible yet structured format with the goal of progressing the sport. MultiGP is the Academy of Model Aeronautics Special Interest Group for First Person View (FPV) Racing. For more information, go to www.MultiGP.com