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

BIRD 2024 – Qualifying Day

Link to YouTube Live Stream – Qualifying Day

Barely enough sleep later I found myself back at Millennium Point and arranging the last few things before people started arriving.

I got mum set up on the ticket desk with the app, pilot packs, merchandise, stickers and schedule for the day. This is something I had meant to do last night, but it just got so late that this was the first time I’d had to dedicate to the task. Dad was sent off to put the schedule sheets of paper around the tables in the pits and on the notice board. David was delegated to getting batteries ready for all the gates LED’s, plugged in and turned on. And Eddy helped me faff with everything else. 

The first few people had started to arrive and as much as I wanted to, there was just no time to be social. This was going to be a long, hard, fast day and we needed to crack on.

We had 48 pilots from 5 different countries coming to take part. They were split into 4 groups of 12 pilots so they had their 8 qualifying fights as close together as possible. This is a technical nightmare for us behind the race directors desk, but makes a big difference to the pilots as it helps them get into the flow and learn the track. Most MultiGP and 5 inch race formats run sequentially through all the pilots in the event. This means with 48 pilots it would take over an hour of hanging around between batteries which would just be boring. So we grouped them.

As it turned out, and partially expected, the first group took longer than scheduled because we had some technical challenges to iron out. No matter how much testing Cerb and James did the night before, The Borrowers must have come in the nights to have fun with the cables. But we were up and racing and fixing stuff as we went along. We are very grateful to the MP AV guys and the IT guys on the phone because they ironed out kinks as quickly as we sent them over. 

It was really exciting to see the pilots tackling the track I’d built. I had spent a night watching Whooptopia and seeing the sort of gates and moves they designed. That track is super technical and very Twirly (technical term), it’s got a distinctive style. Laid out in a flat sports hall, the gates make you do very specific moves and any level change is very much on purpose. My track was completely different, focussed around using the “natural” features of the environment. I set the track to circle the building columns, to jump over and under the stairs and then shoot up the stairs out into space and back again. This meant the racing lines were a bit more freeform and could be explored a little more, a little wider than a super technical track. But, I did take some inspiration from Whooptopia and included some single feature technical Twirly bits and some slalom to showcase the pilots technical skills.

And then of course are the sponsor banners to consider. This I was very happy with because I arranged the Tiny Whoop banner on a big pillar and then the track around it so you’d have to pass it 3 times in quick succession. The weBLEEDfpv banner was also on a pillar as the pilots returned from space and hunted for the starting block. The track made the whoops take a line where they would be banking towards the banner for a good period of time keeping it in shot. The HappyModel banner was in amongst the gates so the whoops “saw” it as they negotiated that section of the track, and it was located at the front of the viewing area next to the “Worm Hole Of Doom” feature gate. All this was very deliberate to give the sponsor logo’s airtime without having to cut to adverts. It’s something that F1 does with banners on the bridges over the track. It looks better than ugly table legs and keeps the sponsors happy which makes all this possible. 

All in all, as we started racing, I think I got the right mix of technical and fast flowy organic track design, if the track was a bit long. After just a couple batteries, pilots were putting in some quick times of about 30-40 seconds. Mid-field-ers were getting around 1 min and the slower pilots about 1 min 30 sec. This is a little longer than I had thought. I was aiming for the mid level pilots to be doing around 45 second laps, but hey, it was a wicked track and we were racing now. 

During the qualifying we managed to get a couple interviews in with some pilots to learn more about them. I convinced GoProMaster and AleFPV to come up on camera for a chat about how they got here. They were competing against teams from across Italy in the IWL and the prize for winning was to come and represent Italy at BIRD 2024. Watching them fly, you could see why they had won their league, they were all really quick and pushing everyone to fly faster. But they did pick up on Carb and KingJoshy of the UK as pilots to watch for the finals. They had been training hard for this and were clearly turning some international heads.

I was juggling being a commentator alongside managing everything else at the event. I had to dive out of the commentary box during the day to organise and deal with things as they sprung up. This gave me some time to step out of the camera and watch what was going on from the spectators perspective. We had set up a huge net to contain the race area which meant you could get right up close and see the whoops whipping past. It was really great that we were able to turn the lights down, it really made the LED’s on the gates and on the whoops pop out of the darkness. With these it was easy to follow them around the track and see how they were getting on. It also made it easy to find them when they crashed! 

And crashes we had! Whoops were crashing on almost every lap. This is completely expected so we took a lot of time to cover as many cables as we could with matting. But still the little blighters managed to find a few nooks to get caught up in. The best catches were when a whoop got caught on the dive gate. A few times, whoops crashed while attempting a dive and ended up sitting on the edge of the gate. The pilots knew that to fly away they would need to crash-flip themselves the right way up. But by doing this, they would also fall 4 storeys into the basement – it added significant risk of whoop damage. The only way to prevent falling and hitting the deck would be to use acro-mode and arm and catch the fall manually. But this is very tricky so most pilots opted to just crash. But during the whole weekend and over 500 flights only 2 or 3 whoops that crashed from this height were unable to fly away. Its testimony to just how durable these little racers can be!

By the end of qualifying we had run 96 heats of 4 pilots giving everyone 8 attempts at getting their fastest 2 consecutive laps. In the table below, those who did not complete 2 laps within the race timer of 2 min 30 seconds show as blank and are in no particular order. This sorted our pilots into the three finals tiers ready for race day tomorrow!

Pilot CallsignQualifiedTimeFinals Tier
adiQ – TFS51:10.712Elite
admv! – TFS61:10.949Elite
King Joshy131:20.056Elite
Archie FPV241:45.789Advanced
Dirty McStinky261:47.191Advanced
XO XO342:10.169Hobbyist
Major DroneBona412:21.851Hobbyist
The Hann FPV45Hobbyist
Derpy Hooves46Hobbyist
Les Cargo47Hobbyist

BIRD2023 Event Day

I got home from the WhoopHaus and my last job was to pack up the van. I’d been collecting and compiling stuff in the living room for weeks leading up to tonight. It had been driving Aimi mad, but my memory is so bad, I knew if it wasn’t in that pile I’d forget it! Everything finally in the van, there was only one thing left to do – finally assembly of the trophies. Parts had been 3D printed and then spray painted earlier in the week but not fully dried yet. This was the last chance and as tired as I was, they had to be done ready for the big day…

Continue reading BIRD2023 Event Day

Tiny Whoop Delivery

Well all the planning is done and the start of the long Whoop weekend is here.

Jesse P, Mr Tiny Whoop, got a proper British drizzly welcome stepping out at Heathrow this morning. But the long flight and weather had no impact on our enthusiasm for the trip. We were both smiling and chatting like old mates as we drove over to Jaggers house for some lunch. Its funny having never met in person how easy it was to pick up and chat for ages all because of our love for FPV flight.

Continue reading Tiny Whoop Delivery

Scoping Out Scotland

Through no fault of my own, I find myself without employment over this Christmas and into January. But I’m also waiting to start work, so I’m in a weird limbo state where I can’t really commit to a new project, but also want to do something so I don’t feel useless.

Looking on the bright side, this situation has arisen perfectly in line with the BIRD2023 event I’m running for the Tiny Whoopers! This year is going to be even bigger and better than ever, with a new venue, special guests and lots of pilots from other countries making it really special. I’ll be writing about that event later, but what else do you do when you don’t have any pressing engagements – go on a little trip!

Continue reading Scoping Out Scotland