The Shady World of Drone Racing

No one noticed the two men in the alley as the darkness of midnight approached – their long, black trench coats acting like a soldier’s camouflage.

“You got the goods?”

“Yeah, these are hot man…super fast..check this…”

The bark of a police siren broke their whispered conversation like a shattering glass, causing the two men to briefly freeze in their steps.

“Johnny B. got busted last week…did you hear?”

“No way man! What he get busted for?”

“Drone racing man…drone racing.”

Deep within the shadows of abandoned warehouses and dilapidated factories on the outskirts of Australian suburbia, the telltale buzz of numerous drones can be heard. Zipping to and fro at speeds upwards of 60km/h, these drones are not just flying. They’re racing each other. The operators use specialized FPV goggles that allow them to see the raceway in real time. This method, unfortunately, puts them on the wrong side of the law.

The dated laws governing drones in Australia are similar to those in the US, which were written for the radio controlled plane industry. While they technically forbid any flying outside of line-of-site, the Australian Civil Aviation Authority seems to be OK with the drone racing so long as it’s done indoors and poses no risk to people or property.

Know of any drone racing in your country? Is it legal? Do people do it anyway? Let us know in the comments.

57 thoughts on “The Shady World of Drone Racing

    1. Not true. This depends on the association and hence the insurance you signed. In DMFV you are allowed to fly FPV in trainer/student mode with the spotter holding the teachers transmitter. With DMO you are even allowed to simply sit next to the spotter so you can hand over the transmitter in case sometheing goes wrong.

        1. There are no legal guidelines as far as i know. Only matter of who’s gonna pay for any damage, you or your insurance.

          Most regular insurance companies (Haftpflicht) explicitly mention that they do not cover anything with RC-models involved. Hence why you need DMFV or the like. And those say that you either fly line-of-sight, trainer/teacher or you’re able to hand over to someone capable of LOS flight.

          1. Correction, there are some guidelines for RC flight, but those are just the guidelines for anything capable of flight and usage of airspace. Nothing about FPV or anything.

        2. Ah, i found one legal guideline:

          LuftVO (Luftverkehrs-Ordnung, eng: Airtraffic-Rules) §15a Part 3.1

          The operation of unmanned airborne systems is prohibited if the aircraft is out of sight of the pilot.

          Out of sight is defined as the distance at which the aircraft can not be properly seen and identified without any special optical aids.
          Which posts the question, if FPV is an optical or an electronical aid.

  1. Legal? Its pretty offensive that small groups of people are telling the rest of us what we can and can’t do, particularly when it comes to things like this. Its kind of pathetic that we want to engage in something fun and must first ask “is it legal?” What kind of draconion overlord nonsense is this?

    1. If there were no restrictions, sooner or later someone would have the bright idea to race something big, like a Tarot hexacopter. These will readily sever a finger, and if one were to hit someone in the head it could easily kill them. Government exists not to “tell us what to do” but to protect us from the idiots among us.

      1. New rules don’t make anything safer. Safe flying just requires half a brain. If you don’t have half a brain, and a lot of people don’t, you can hurt yourself or others. All a rule does is penalize everybody for the stupidity of a few morons, and possibly provide income for the overlords.
        @ Z0011111 – a blanket ban? Are you serious? Folks that’s a perfect example of the stupidity of a moron I think.
        A better option? If you do dangerous $hit that is probably going to hurt people, you should be banned from being free and banned from spending your next $500 or $5000 or something. You could fly 100lb quadcopters safely if you just do it in the right way and time and place. How about a blanket ban on small-minds. I get so sick of that kind of thinking.
        You CANNOT legislate stupidity away !!! There’s proof of that daily. However, you CAN penalize the general population for the stupidity of a moron or few. Sadly, there’s proof of that daily too.

        1. A freshly sharpened pencil can be a deadly weapon. So can a throwaway plastic table knife or fork. Rocks! For the love of all that is holy/spaghetti monster we must ban all rocks capable of being lifted by a person and large enough to bash someone’s head in!

          1. I can only agree. Anything that can be used can be misused, intentional or not. (Similarly pretty much anything that can be detected can be faked.)

      2. Thing is, large finger-choppy quadcopters cost a helluva lot. The crashes-into-everything quadcopter you see in the news (otherwise known as the phantom) is like that because it’s cheap and people treat it like a toy.

        1. The cheapest Phantom I can find costs $410 USD. For that much I could easily build something big and choppy and dangerous. It wouldn’t be as huge as a Tarot, but it doesn’t take much to kill someone. The issue isn’t cheap copters, it’s that people assume large things act like small things — and they do, until something goes wrong.

    2. Well, you presumably live in a democracy, so you can blame the fact that most of society isn’t standing up to cry about it.

      Just like with gay marriage…we sadly had to wait until others stood up for us, because we are few.

  2. what a load of horseshit!!!

    CASA, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority have no interest in this group because they are flying inside a warehouse!!!
    This was on TV the other night
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-11/the-underground-world-of-drone-racing/6532896

    get your damn facts straight!!

    Just because our prime minister is an ass hat that says stupid shit like
    “coal is our friend”
    “wind farms are offensive and pose a serious health risk”
    does not mean we are living in a backward thinking, police state!

    Well, not yet anyway, give it another couple of weeks.

    On that note my time here on HackaDay has been great, some highs, some lows, but soon this site my be “off limits” because of its “seditious content”.

    Ain’t democracy grand…

      1. I didn’t vote for the dumb ass!
        it was the racist, xenophobes that wanted to “stop the boats”.

        now it turns out the Australian government is paying people smugglers to take the refugees back to Indonesia

  3. I think the reason they’re ok with doing it indoors is because that is private property. Lets say I owned a large stadium, if I were to race inside there, there’s pretty much nothing the FAA could do.

    1. Because the stadium is large, enclosed, and has nobody nearby who isn’t there on purpose. I agree, a backyard should be fine, but it is marginally more dangerous — your remote fails and suddenly there’s a ball of whirling sharp bits flying at 50km/hr, it would be really nice to be in a stadium.

  4. Spain here:

    First of all, in order to fly a drone you must:
    – Get a UAV/RPA license similar to a. driver’s liecense or have a aircraft license
    – Have a Class II medical certificate.
    – Have a drone insurance.
    – Being hired by a drone operator, or be registered as operator.

    If all those requisites are meet, you shall not fly the drone:
    – At night.
    – Within cities or above a crowd of people.
    – Inside a controlled aerial space. (no flying inside CTR).
    – Above 500m from the ground.
    – FPV is ok, I guess, so far you’re able to directly see the drone.

    So, if ALL of these requisites are met, you’ll be permitted to organise a drone race.
    Otherwise, you’re outside the law, and Police or the Statal Agency of Aerial Security coul fine you with the very juicy amount of ~6000€.

    Spanish law’s suck ¬¬

    (That being said, I have my drone license and my medical certificate. May someone hire me to fly some drones, please? :D)

  5. Truth is, the word “drone” means ANY air vehicle that is remotely controlled. So technically miniquads are drones. But yea, for some reason the word has become synonymous with ominous for some (probably stupid) reason.
    Personally I would like the media and politicians call them what is more accurate – TOYS. They aren’t Milton Bradley, swallow-proof plastic and can cost a fair amount, but TOYS is what they are. Some are so small and powerless that you can fly them continuously into a newborn baby and not hurt it (the baby OR the toy). Others are big boy toys and cost more and are more powerful, but they are still toys and can cause MUCH less injury to a person than a circular saw, an item which never makes the front page.

    This paranoia is all just such mindless drivel. If you hate toys, please just go back to church, shut the hell up and let the rest of us try to have a little fun while we’re still above ground. Life’s too short to give credulity to morons.

    1. well put!

      most of the problem is this HaD article and it’s stupid title.
      if you read the article where this tripe stems from,
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-11/the-underground-world-of-drone-racing/6532896

      what shits me about any RTF (ready to fly) is there is no skill involved in building, finishing or flying.
      which is why we see all the videos of guys getting all upset when a half naked girl freaks and trashes their over priced toy.
      idiots somehow feel the need to fly in places they shouldn’t, then post videos on youtube to show how irresponsible they are.

      electric flight is pretty cool, but brushless motors don’t stall like a glow plug motor does when it hits your hand, they keep going and going.

      I’ve had idiots tell me that “carbon fibre props are crap, nylon props can take more abuse”, which is terrifying for any long time model flyer.
      I’ve been at model clubs when props have shed a blade and ended up in someones guts or leg or face.
      Above .40cu you just plain out don’t use nylon props for that very reason, a lot of brushless motors are WAY over the power limit for a nylon prop, but idiots who’ve been flying for 10 minutes, who know everything about everything, will tell you all about how much “better” (read cheaper) nylon props are.
      When you ask them if they’ve boiled their nylon prop, they give you a blank stare!

      those of us that have been flying RC aircraft for decades are DEEPLY pissed off that the proliferation of these plastic pieces of crap have brought the attention of “the man” down on all of us.

      On one forum I got called “elitist” for mentioning flying pulse jet powered aircraft and lusting after a turbine!

      So called “drone racing” is just a newer version of RC pylon racing, which is at the extreme end of the sport/hobby, planes going so fast I’ve seen them break up from G forces on the turns!

      actions have consequences, doing the right thing starts by NOT doing the wrong thing, then “being sorry” you weren’t thinking.

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