BIRD 2024 – Finals Day

Link to YouTube Live Stream – Finals Day

During Qualifying Day we had neatly split all 48 pilots into 3 classes of 16 pilot finals; Hobbyist, Advanced, Elite. I arrived early and while the computers were turning on and no one was here I had about 15 mins where I could fly the track. But I didn’t. I hadn’t thought there would be time so I hadn’t charged any batteries! For the second year in a row, I wasn’t going to get to fly my own track, but hey ho, that’s the deal with running the event. Next year for definite I’m at least flying the track in the break.

One person who also nearly ended up not flying was VikingFPV. He was staying at the whoophaus and no doubt had spent the evening getting drunk and trashing his whoop around. This meant this morning he didn’t have a whoop with which to fly so while I may not have flown the track, my whoop did as I leant him my gear to fly with. When his name came up on the screen it said VikingFPV, but in the corner it also said “Dad’s Drone” haha!

Starting with the Hobbyists, we set off racing and immediately it was exciting. Watching everyone absolutely fly their hardest produced some fantastic racing and surprise results as the pressure helped some and hindered others. Some of the most exciting racing was actually flown in the Hobbyist class where crashes and dead batteries meant the field swapped around throughout the race. By the end of just the hobbyist tier, the whole place was jumping up and down and yelling support for all pilots no matter where they were coming which was really great to experience. This level of camaraderie exemplifies the FPV community of helping each other and having fun, it was so gratifying.

There were some fantastic moments that stuck out to me like the battle between Thornberry and Yggdrasil for the 5-8 final. A bobble out in space by Yggdrasil gave Thornberry time to catch him up. They came down the stairs and around the starting block absolutely neck and neck, but then both made mistakes and bounced off the crash gate! They both crashed just at the end so it was then a desperate scramble for the net, as the crowd was going nuts! Both recovered quickly and got up flying again, aiming for that net, they punched it home at full throttle but it was an absolute dead heat. In the end there was nothing in it so both were awarded joint 5th for such a close run race!

Later that day I also managed to get 3 of the 4 finalists of BIRD 2023 on camera for a chat; Kwadastrophy, Dan Carpy and Admovie. We found out that while a lot of the top pilots fly in Acro (acrobatic mode) because there is more you can do with it, Dan Carpy uses Angle (self levelling mode). He is an incredible pilot and can fly Acro very comfortably during freestyle, but chooses to race in Angle, which is great news for me. I, like many tiny whoop pilots, get started in Angle mode and stick with it because it’s just easier. So hearing that one of the top pilots in the UK and Europe is racing with Angle gives me hope that maybe (not a chance) I might get to that level (in my dreams)

We also had a chat with the Drone Soccer guys who were putting on a demonstration and Give It A Go session down in the atrium. It was fun to get my hands on a drone ball and see just whats going on inside there. Turn out, its a completely normal racing drone, but with a cage around it so you can bash into each other. As drone Pilots, we usually spend our time avoiding crashes at all costs, so to be able to deliberately cash into other drones sounds great fun!

This year I’ve tried to create and put on a lot more stuff for the general public and pilots to do while they are not flying. We had a whole area set up in the atrium where stands and organisations could set up and showcase their stuff. The aim is to create a whole weekend festival of FPV and drone action. So many people in the country seem to be scared to death of drones and there is just no need. This event – with any luck – will go some way to offering a safe, fun way into the hobby and answer people’s unasked fears and questions about drones. 

One attraction this year was Drone Soccer, who came along with a whole inflatable pitch set up and a fleet of drones for people to have a go with. Newly brought over to the UK all the way from South Korea they are just getting started recruiting pilots to come and play drone soccer. The drones are 3 inch racing drones, enclosed in a lightweight plastic ball frame. There are 4 pilots per team and the game is basically like Quidditch, where you have to put a drone ball through a hoop at the other end while defending your hoop.

This whole setup was great because the drone balls are all piloted Line-Of-Sight, meaning they would be able to be flown all day without interfering with our racing drones video signals! Loads of the passing public and the pilots, between races, went down and had a go flying them. Hopefully some will be trying out for the UK Drone Soccer team heading out to Korea next year for the world championships!

We also had the BMFA (British Model Flyers Association) attend and host a stand where people could see racing drones up close and ask the experts about drone safety and laws. This is critical so that when people engage with the sport, they have the knowledge and resources to be able to do it safely and legally. Especially around christmas, when well meaning parents buy their kids a drone and they go out to the park and accidentally do something illegal. But for us – this is not a problem! All our drones are so small flying them outside in any sort of wind is just impossible, so we race indoors!

The BMFA also brought along simulators so not only could people see drones racing, see them up close in their hand, and have a go line-of-sight, but they could actually fly them in a  virtual environment. They had 2 simulators available for people to jump on and have their first experience of flying immediately. Simulated drone flying is a whole e-sport in itself with huge prizes from the likes of DCL (Drone Champions League). They were a bit late to the party this year, but maybe next year we can have DCL attend with some simulators… watch this space.

Millennium Point, houses the Birmingham Science Museum called ThinkTank and working with them we also organised a workshop activity. Kids (and adults I guess) could come along and learn from NASA’s JPL how to build a glider and a helicopter from paper. Talking about lift and propulsion and aerodynamics of flight, these are the first stepping stones into a whole industry of passionate and creative people. With any luck, playing around with model drones could lead you there!

And as demonstration, Rory RC Tooley came along with his fixed wing lightweight planes to show just what could be done. He was there at the very first BIRD event in 2020 so it was great to have him back and show him how much the event has grown. He’s focussed on plane flying and has achieved some incredible things flying in acrobatic competitions all over the world. We were lucky to see such an incredible display of skill swooping around the atrium.

Accompanying him were some of my more trustworthy-ish friends with cine-whoops. These are slightly larger drones than our racing whoops that can hold a decent camera and record some high quality video. You can get some incredible video with a cine-whoop that just cannot be achieved any other way. They tooled around the atrium doing a few flips and rolls to show everyone that larger quads do not automatically mean DJI. These are specialist, or custom made, but can do so much more than an off the shelf product.

But today was all about the racing and as we progressed up the list we had some amazing races. Because every single race counted to the final position they could achieve, they all pushed so hard on every race. One of my personal favourites was the Advanced Class Lower Semi 1 where it was Tranki (Italy), Infinity (UK), Makenins (Latvia) and Kremoos (Poland). Almost all the nationalities were flying together and really trying their best for themselves and the glory of their nation’s Tiny Whoop community. All of them were neck and neck for most of the race which meant we got some fantastic video of them chasing each other thru the Tiny Whoop tower and taking the dive gate together. Unfortunately at the start of his 2nd lap Makenins hit the timing gate hard and went down never to move again. Infinity and Tranki were literally prop to prop as they came back down from space and lined up for the crash gate finish. You could see each others LED’s in the pilots view but they both crashed into the timing gate and missed the finish net. A bit of luck meant Infinity landed the right way up just infront of the finish so popped up and in took first. But while this was going on Kremoos who had been blasting around the track was just coming down from space and around the starting block. Tranki’s recovery from the crash took just a little too long and allowed Kremoos to sneak past him at the last moment to clinch second. It was so exciting and fast paced everyone was cheering and gasping as the action unfolded. When the pilots came over to collect their whoops at the end Infinity held his hands up trembling with adrenalin! It was just one of so many great races that day.

The racing was so fast several times during commentary I got tongue tied. Cerb, the master, didn’t have a problem, but I’ve only commentated a few races before now. As we progressed into the Elite class of races, the speed picked up another level and more often I stepped back and let Cerb do his thing.

I could give an excitable play by play of all the races because every single one was spectacular. But as this competition went on it became more apparent that you had to be careful with your tactics. Obviously flying as fast as possible is a way to win a race, but coming first was not the goal of the first 2 races in the finals league tree. There is a great example in Heat 2 race of Elite Class where OscarNova was in second and challenging Carb for 1st in some sections, but several crashes dropped him down to be competing with Ree for that all important 2nd position. Then right at the end he crashed twice giving Ree time to catch up. On his second hit he must have broken something because he completely lost video. This allowed Ree to take 2nd and the Upper Semi slot. But then Mike, who had been having a mostly smooth flight around came home and took 3rd, leaving OscarNova in 4th by default. Its a great example where a seriously fast pilot that was pushing himself, maybe a little to hard, made mistakes that cost him the Upper Semi slot.

The surprise results were Admovie and Kwadastrophy who were 2nd and 3rd at BIRD 2023  both having a terrible time both in their Race Heats and then again in the Lower Semi’s. Multiple crashes, Admovie getting lost in space losing time and Kwadastrophy having some sort of problem with his quad losing him a whole race. This is the power of the Single Elimination format, where the top pilots last year may not be the top pilots this year, they may not be able to handle the pressure, or have some bad luck with their whoops that costs them a shot at the podium this year. 

But with them out of the way, we had progressed thru all the Heats and Semi’s and reached the climax of the day. The Elite Class final race between Carb (UK), AdiQ (Poland), GoProMaster (Italy) and AleFPV (Italy). The tension mounted as the VAR timer needed resetting. We have to admit some hope for a UK win in 2024. In 2023 we had a 4th position with Poland and Germany above us, so now Carb was here and looking quick we had to stop ourselves from putting too much pressure on him for the UK win. Once the timer had reset, and the whoops were plugged in, it was time to find out. 

The top pilots took off and streaked through the first few gates in a high speed chase. It was impossible to call who was in first for the opening seconds of this race, the LED’s were just too close to call. First out into space was Carb stretching out a small lead in front of AdiQ, who unfortunately got caught on the drop gate. He turtled off and fell all the way to the basement allowing GoProMaster to just nip into 2nd. From then on it was a fight for the whole race between AdiQ and GoProMaster for 2nd. Carb continued to stretch out his lead with just some beautiful flying and controlled swoops through the dive gate. But AleFPV was not giving up and flying really consistently keeping the pressure on. Just one mistake and he would be there to capitalise on it, but unluckily for him, the flying by GoProMaster and AdiQ was just too smooth, with no crashes. But none of them could quite match the mastery and precision of Carb who led the whole race with zero crashes and a blistering pace to take 1st. As hard as AdiQ tried after that long fall to the basement he just couldn’t catch GoProMaster who took 2nd, leaving 3rd for AdiQ and coming home immediately after was AleFPV in 4th.

It was a spectacular race finishing with a huge cheer for Carb bringing home the win for the UK.

After all that fun, it was back down to work to set up the prize giving. I ran around with my hair on fire and roped in some volunteers to help set things up while Kai and Cerb had a chat about 3D printing on the live stream. But pretty soon I was set up, thanking all our sponsors and ready to announce the awards. 

One of the awards was “Furthest Travelled Onesie” for which I had to shout out to the kangaroo courts to get their opinion. This is because while it was meant to be for a onesie, Makenins and the whole team was wearing matching racing tshirts with LED light up plexiglass visors. It was so cool and so as he was the furthest away, and everyone cheered, he won!

The Italians definitely had a co-ordinated approach to the “Best Onesie” award with 24 out of the 72 votes going to OscarNova. This was swiftly followed by the whole Italian team winning the “Best Group Onesie” award. They had all some in a mix of onesies dressed up like Birds, Dragons, Cows, Skeletons and cartoon characters. They are all a great fun loving bunch of people and very deservedly won this award!

Finally I got to announce the racing results as listed below. It was so nice that everyone stuck around to cheer and congratulate their mates for their achievements. With 48 pilots in the competition and only 4 in each class being crowned, it is a big deal to stand up there in front of the crowd getting your trophy. I was honoured to be giving out the awards to what can only be called the best pilots in Europe.

With a round of applause and a group photo, everyone headed off and me, FPVRS and the volunteers started the bulk of the pack up. We didn’t have to get it all down tonight, but as much as we could would make tomorrow easier. In the end we got down about 80% of the track and gubbins and piled it all up in the centre of the room. 

Then we head to the pub to meet some of the international pilots who were staying in Birmingham centre. The Italians, the Polish and the Latvians all came out and celebrated the end of the event with a beer and a steak (where I accidentally mixed and upgraded Lullaby’s food).  We got some great feedback and had fun reliving the exciting moments of BIRD 2024.

BIRD 2024 – Final Results
BTW Birmingham International Race Days 27 & 28 Jan 2024
Elite Class
3adiQ – TFSAdrianStanekPoland
4AleFPVAlessioDe iesoItaly
8King JoshyJoshyStevensUK
9admv! – TFSAntoniDaczkaPoland
Advanced Class
2Dirty McStinkyKrisSmithUK
15Archie FPVArchieGaleUK
Hobbyist Class
2MDV_FPVMaris DavisVaivadsLatvia
J – 5yggdrasil_fpvMichaelRüberGermany
J – 5ThorneberryJoshThorneUK
8Major DroneBonaOliverSmaleUK
11Derpy HoovesSoleySayceUK
12The Hann FPVCraigHannanUK
14Les CargoNickHughesUK
16XO XODanStevensUK