The Lightning-Fast World of High-Speed Drone Racing Is Going to Blow Your Mind

Virtual reality and augmented reality are cool, but they're no match for the best reality of all: old-fashioned, unadulterated reality. The newest trend in tech gaming brings together drones, video gaming and traditional racing competition into a sweet trifecta. It's called FPV drone racing (for "first-person view"). 

When most people think of small quadcopter drones, they imagine RC cars that fly while you watch from the ground. But these drone racers wear goggles...

Source: Tested/YouTube

...and see this.

Source: CharpuFPV/YouTube

The effect reminds people of the podracing scene from Star Wars: Episode I, and rightfully so. FPV drone racing allows you to fly through the air at rapid speeds, as if you were a thimble-sized pilot on the back of the world's fastest drones.

Courses like abandoned buildings, cave systems, bike paths and city parks are bounded only by the imagination — and, eventually, the law.

Racing drones aren't like other quadcopters, made for taking landscape photos or working on farms. Those drones are built to bear loads, not designed for speed and agility — like the difference between a U-Haul and a Ferrari. These drones can dive, tumble, turn on a dime and reach speeds pushing 80 mph.

Source: CHARPU FPV/YouTube

And the racetracks are everywhere. Unlike street racing, drones don't need a paved road, so courses like abandoned buildings, cave systems, bike paths and city parks are bounded only by the imagination — and, eventually, the law, when the Federal Aviation Administration gets around to rolling out full drone regulations.

Source: CharpuFPV/YouTube

Many of the best of YouTube's FPV videos come from Charpu, a French racer who was one of the first great stunt FPV pilots, inspiring a whole class of imitators and fans:

FPV drone racing is the sport of the future. Because of the low price-point — it costs $300 to $400 to have a working, flying drone that you can race — there is a lower barrier for entry. The same way esports are easier to get into and play than traditional field sports, drone racing offers a relatively sedentary thrill available to anyone who wants to buy in, which creates both an enormous potential user base and a potential audience.

So far, FPV drone racing isn't a fully fledged sport. There are dozens of teams and meet-ups, makeshift sets of rules and the occasional get-together or grand experiment. But there's no official league or "NFL of drone racing" yet. There are a few companies moving into that space, like the California-based Game of Drones, but it's far too soon to declare a victor in such a nascent space.

But until we start seeing races live on ESPN — or Twitch, if we're talking about the future of Internet TV — the best destination for gorgeous racing drones is right here on YouTube.