The day of reckoning had arrived. Facebook ad’s posted. Event showing people coming from as far away as Germany. Prizes were organised and winners cup engraved. The race gates were positioned, LEDs illuminated. Laptop set up with a records spreadsheet (because as cool as I am, I can’t resist a good spreadsheet). The first contestants lined up on 4 stools at one end of the bar. Armed, and props spinning, they waited for the countdown to start the first race. The buzzer sounded and they zipped off the line…!
A German chap called Ludi had found my facebook page I set up to organised social meetups in Birmingham flying Tiny Whoops. They are little drones about the size and weight of a packet of cigarettes but don’t let their diminutive size fool you, they are full on racing drones and can travel at ridiculous speeds. But, they have guarded propellers and don’t weigh that much so can be flown comfortably indoors and aren’t going to do much damage if crashed, which happens a lot.
Ludi had gotten in touch to find some competition racing Tiny Whoops and soon the Birmingham International Race Day was organised. He came over with 2 of his friends and I rustled up the best competition I could manage. This was the first big event I had ever organised but it all came together wonderfully!
There were 13 pilots flying in the end and a few spectators who had brought drones, but didn’t feel up to the challenge of flying. There was also the normal patrons of the bar we were using. Kongs were amazing, they were totally happy for us to fly around and use their space all afternoon. And what a space! It was a really large, open plan bar/club in the heart of Birmingham. There were colour changing light tubes and a neon light kong and space invader logo. It was a very industrial looking place with the buildings concrete columns left exposed and wire mesh used as “room” dividers. It was perfect for flying! Big and open, without too many delicate items to smash into.
We started off just allowing people to fly around and check out the course, getting a few batteries through their quads. This was great while people arrived and built a suspenseful aire in the bar as people clamoured for the flags allowing them to fly (the flags denoted which video channel was being used by whom so people didn’t accidentally mess up your flight by overlaying their quads broadcast video).
After a while, everyone had arrived and signed in and the main event was ready to start. I had organised them all onto particular video bands and set up 3 rounds of qualifying heats. With 13 flyers, we had rounds of 3+3+3+4 so to run 3 of each of these took quite a while. But the race times showed how good people were getting by the end of it and I think they were glad of the practice.
Then came the main race. The spreadsheet I had made the night before was contested by a couple of the more experienced racers. They complained it wasn’t giving the fastest people the chance to go head to head. And I had to agree, having never run an event like this before, I had built it the best way I could, but they were right. It took me about 5 mins to adjust the sheet so it was more fair – if now a little scrappy. But it worked and the racing started.
Immediately it was clear the Germans were all really quick but they weren’t without competition. It was a knock out race, so after everyone had had a race, half the field was eliminated. Then after the next round of racing, half were eliminated again so this part went much quicker.
By this point the bar had filled up with normal customers who were walking in and around the obstacles creating new challenges for the racers. It was AMAZING watching screaming little lights buzz around the bar in and out of all the gates and people. Every one of the pilots flew responsibly, conscious that smacking into an unsuspecting person was not a good idea. Drones have gotten a lot of bad press recently so it was nice not to give the public a negative experience. From the chatter around us, it seemed people were really interested in what was going on, if a little wary at first.
By the end of the day, we had our winners and I was not surprised to see Ludi (SpeziLover) at the top of the list. He was blisteringly fast and pretty much no one could keep up with him. One lad, of only 15 called Rory RC managed to come in 2nd. He was flying a brushed drone against everyone else in the field who was using brushless. That like coming 2nd in a race where you are using a bicycle and everyone else is using a motorbike!!! It was incredible and I think the Germans were rightly impressed.
The final race standings were:
1st – SpeziLover
2nd – Rory RC
3rd – Stffn
4th – Orangutang
5th – WigWam
6th – Jaggers
Overall it was a great day, with loads of flying, racing and chatting all things Tiny Whoop. At the end, I was able to give out a load of prizes kindly donated by Tiny Whoop themselves and Beta FPV. I also had a trophy made so next year Ludi will have to come back and defend his title!