The buzzing sounded like large insects swarming.
But the objects whipping around feather flag signs and through “gates” were quad drones weaving around an obstacle course during the 2017 Maryland State Championship drone races presented by Crown City FPV.
FPV means first-person view. Quad refers to how many propellers — four — were on each drone.
Forty-five pilots participated Sunday in the drone races at Pegasus RC Club’s site off Old Forge Road, northeast of Hagerstown.
The local club has operated remote-controlled aircraft such as planes and helicopters at the site for years, but more recently has gotten into drone flying.
In early 2017, the local club established a drone-racing course at its Old Forge Road site for year-round practicing, said Mike Frey, a Pegasus executive board member.
On Sunday, a temporary course was set up for the state championship.
White “cones” that were rather flat marked a course that had various gates or holes for drones to fly through, as well as tall feather flag signs to whip around. From ground view, the exact path of the course wasn’t obvious. But pilots donned goggles allowing them to see the course from the drone’s aerial viewpoint. From that vantage, the white markers clearly laid out a path that wove back and forth on the field.
A TV screen was set up so spectators could see drones’ viewpoints. The screen for a particular drone occasionally blinked and came back, but when a drone was knocked out, that screen went black.
A few pilots could be overheard wondering what they had done to crash their drone or speculating about technical malfunctions, such as battery connections.
Pilots got to practice before the heats began.
The nationals were last weekend, so race organizer Cody Wright said the state contest was really about bragging rights.
Each pilot was trying to get as many laps completed as possible within 2 minutes.
Before flying, pilots spotted for others. Spotters wore googles giving them access to the same video channel as the pilot. They kept track of laps and told a pilot when the drone missed a gate so the drone could circle around.
Pegasus is a new chapter of MultiGP, an international racing association with more than 20,000 pilots. Pegasus has about eight pilots so far.
Frey and Dennis King, Pegasus’ vice president, said learning to pilot drones while wearing goggles was “an adjustment,” compared to remotely flying planes using a regular line of sight.
King, 44, of Smithsburg, completed one lap during a practice run.
He said he felt great about that lap because it was his first time through the course and his first-ever drone race.
Frey, 48, of Hagerstown’s South End, whose drone was referred to as V8der, completed four laps during an early heat.
“Yeah, I’m a ‘Star Wars’ freak,” he said.
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