Dozens of drone owners conducted a three lap circuit through trees last month in what organizers, who compared the event to the pod race in Star Wars Episode I, hope will spawn similar contests around the world.
Herve Pellarin, president of the Airgonay drone club in the French Alps, posted a video to YouTube that shows dozens of lightweight drones taking off and zipping around a forest at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour, while dodging trees and other drones.
The video, which you can see for yourself below, shows the drones taking off and racing around the course, as well as the various competitors who steer the devices by means of on-drone cameras and “First Person View” goggles.
According to Pellarin, the race produced a few broken propellers but no major damage to the drones, which are even lighter than popular consumer model like the 2.2 pound Phantom 2. He predicts that drones in future race will come with small chips capable of simulating laser blasts.
It’s not quite Star Wars, but the test race in the Alps shows yet another use for consumer drones, which are already being used for everything from news gathering to movie making to search and rescue operations.
Pellarin, who is a virtual reality developer, says he hopes the YouTube video will inspire people in countries around the world to organize similar competitions, and that top competitors will come to square off in a global tournament one year from now.
As for safety and legal issues, which are bogging down drone development in the United States, Pellarin notes that people have nothing to fear since the course is clearly marked, and that the drones pose no danger to other aircraft since they are flying in the forest. He also credited the town of Argonay, France, for granting the drone racers a permit to use public land for their activities.
Here’s the video, which is subtitled in English. (You can also learn more on Airgonay’s Facebook page)