CHIPLEY – Drone enthusiasts are aplenty these days, but the sport of racing the crafts is now coming to the forefront.
Drone racing began in 2014 in Australia and New Zealand and has now made its way to Chipley.
Local residents Lewis Goodman and Steve Stanton began a chapter of MultiGP Drone Racing in Chipley called Heads Up FPV. The club, which refers to the sport's aspect of first person view, currently has about 12 members but is expected to grow.
The enthusiasm for the sport is obvious for Goodman, who goes by the handle "LGX FPV," and Stanton, who goes by "Negative G."
“We will help anyone who is interested in getting started,” said Stanton. “We want to have more people involved.”
The sport is one for tech innovators. Whether decked out with a high resolution Go-Pro or a low-resolution camera, one can fly through the race course at great speeds, and many make short films of their flights, highlighting views that cannot be seen from land.
Called quadcopters, the drones can go from 0-100 mph in less than a second and give the pilot a bird's-eye, first-person view enthusiasts say gives the sensation of flying.
Getting started in the sport will cost around $300 to build a drone - but Stanton says to get ready for a learning curve, referring to a quip by 2016 MultiGP Drone Racing World Champion Chad Nowak:
“If you’re not crashing, you’re not learning."
And Stanton - who recently became a product tester for quadcopter component manufacturer, Armattan Quads - is no stranger to the crashes.
“I have peace of mind, and I can push harder because Armattan is there to help me get back in the air,” said Stanton.
The group meets every other week at Rivertown Community Church (RCC), located at 1317 State Park Road in Chipley and hosts races once a month, which organizers say is beneficial to those in surrounding areas as well because the location allows for a central meeting place for enthusiasts from Panama City, Pensacola, and Dothan, Alabama.
The races held in Chipley help earn participants points needed to go to larger competitions - possibly those on the international level.
The club is open to any age and has members as young as 8 piloting their own drones.
“Young people are the future of this sport,” said Goodman. “We want more involved.”
Anyone interested in becoming part of the club may contact Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the club's Facebook page, under Heads Up FPV.