Mid-air crashes, rapid in-flight power loss and obstacle collisions did little to stop the Australian Army Drone Racing Team from competing in the Drone Racing National Championships held at Duntroon Oval on August 19-21.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Lance Bombardier Riley Van Leeuwen from the 131st Surveillance and Target Acquisition Battery returns from retrieving his racing drone from the track during the Drone Racing National Championships. Story and photo by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton.
Seventy-two pilots from Japan, New Zealand and Australia flew small, radio-controlled quadcopters around a track with vertical and horizontal gates and break-neck turns reaching speeds greater than 200km/h.
Army pilot Sapper Alex Brown said speed and excitement drew him to the rapidly emerging motor sport.
“It’s not just about the racing, though,” Sapper Brown said.
“You’re learning to code, build and innovate, and because you’re always breaking things, you’re always repairing.”
The competition was time-based with the pilots’ fastest two consecutive laps determining their position on the leader board.
Sapper Brown said he was averaging about 42 seconds around the track.
In contrast, the winner and world champion, Thomas Bitmatta, averaged 21 seconds.
Of the six Army pilots competing, Cadet Warrant Officer Class One Riley Woods came 32nd, placing highest for Army.
“We can always improve; it simply comes down to more track time,” Sapper Brown said.
Posted to Army Headquarters as a reservist, Sapper Brown works exclusively with the Australian Army Drone Racing Team, promoting the sport nationally at open days, air shows and in competition.
All drone racing enthusiasts in Army are encouraged to get involved and race while serving.