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Drone racing coming to Amherstburg

A drone flies the course during a race at the Montreal drone expo, Saturday, June 25, 2016.

Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS

An initial attempt to bring outdoor drone racing to Essex County is literally up in the air.

David McCall, one of the founding members of a Windsor-area drone-racing club, had the first event lined up for a field at the Libro Centre in Amherstburg later this month.

A scheduling snafu left the venue unavailable and McCall unable to reschedule on such short notice.

So the FPV Windsor club is now setting its sights on 2018 when it hopes to offer drone racing once at month in Amherstburg from May through September.

“People have drones out on fields or farms practising but there have been no official races around here,” McCall said.

Members of FPV Windsor have an arrangement to fly on a designated field at the Canadian Transportation Museum in Kingsville and at the Sun Parlor R/C Flyers Club in Amherstburg.

McCall hopes that racing in either August or September of next year can be sanctioned as a qualifier for the Canadian Drone Nationals.

FPV stands for first-person view and refers to the method used by pilots for flying their drones. The pilot wears goggles that show the live-stream camera feed from the drone.

“It’s as if you’re actually riding on it,” McCall said of the appeal. “You’re out there going 50 kilometres an hour and a 100 feet in the air. I mean it’s really a blast.”

FPV Windsor became an official local chapter of FPV Canada, the country’s largest drone racing league, earlier this year.

Unofficially, McCall and other local enthusiasts did some indoor micro-drone racing at the WFCU Centre last winter.

Always an electronics guy, the 55-year-old Windsorite became intrigued after a friend bought a photography drone.

Six months ago, he turned his hobby into a business venture. As CEO of Future Evolutions Inc., McCall works with friend and designer Shawn Tootill to develop and build drones for different applications.

They are working on a model for an architectural firm right now and looking at several new racing models.

From there, McCall has plans for two future ventures – Dronetainment and Dronemusement.

Dronetainment would see McCall take a portable racing enclosure to public events to demonstrate the sport and allow the public to give it a whirl. Dronemusement would require the purchase of property to host a FPV camp for drones as well as remote-controlled boats and cars.

Next month, he will head to Ottawa for the second annual FPV Canada nationals, organized by Windsor native Matt Zoern.

Now living in Montreal, the 43-year-old Zoern started three years ago with a small group of enthusiasts who formed FPV Montreal.

Now, there are nine chapters across the country and more than 1,000 race pilots.

“It’s so much fun,” Zoern said. “It’s just like you’re flying. You’re going up in the air skimming across tree tops and it’s just a different perspective.

“It’s great for education,” he said. “Essentially you’re doing robotics because it has the aspect of the virtual when you’re flying and the physical when you’re creating.”

Down the road, Zoern would also like to see communities offer dedicated drone parks.

More information on when FPV Windsor will hold indoor racing events at the WFCU Centre this winter is available on its Facebook page or at www.Windsordroneracingleague.com.

mcaton@postmedia.com


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