Discover the world of Red Bull DR.ONE drone racing

Red Bull DR.ONE, one of the world’s most exciting drone racing events, debuts September 29, and we’ve been talking to the race director to discover all you need to know.

Drone racing is turning out to be one of the most exciting up and coming sports around, offering incredible speeds, bags of talent and a healthy dose of innovation. Red Bull is at the heart FPV (First Person View) racing this year, with 18 of the world’s best drone pilots from 14 different countries set to battle it out in the 2017 Red Bull DR.ONE event on September 29-30.

It’s the world premiere for DR.ONE, and with the best pilots navigating a challenging, fast and technical track at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, where the only limits revolve around weight and height, it could well be the FPV drone event of the year. We’ve been talking to Jörg Buma, DR.ONE Race Director, to find out all you need to know.

How does one become DR.ONE Race Director exactly?

I’m 50 years old and live in the South of Bavaria in Germany. I started organising FPV events in 2016 and have recently just managed an event attracting around 200 pilots. The team at Red Bull DR.ONE reached out to see whether I was interested and there was no reason for me to decline such a request. DR.ONE was also a real challenge due to its unique race mode and the strategic component – it differs a lot to other drone race events.

What makes Drone racing exhilarating? Do you think it can become a mainstream sport over time?

The most powerful thing is to have the same feeling you would if you were sitting in the actual drone. This experience, combined with the possible speeds and manoeuvres, is truly mind blowing. Everything is possible.

No other model flight area has expanded so quickly in such a short period of time as FPV [drone] racing. I see a lot of parallels to other established races like Formula 1 or DTM, with even more opportunities. The drone technology evolves constantly and also the pilots need talent and a lot of training to be the best. The next years will tell whether it stays a niche sport or goes mainstream, but I am very optimistic.

Tell us about your first experience with drones. Have you always been interested in remote control vehicles?

I started relatively late with remote controlled vehicles. My first encounter with a model flight kit was in 2009 when I purchased my first RC helicopter. I quickly realised that there had to be more, so I bought one of the typical camera drones, which was fine for a while but got boring in the end. In 2014 I came in touch with FPV race drones and since then I’ve been hooked and fly FPV only.

Tell us about the course – it’s a time trial where the teams go one after the other, right?

As a matter of fact the approach is different. We will race in multiple heats in three groups at any given time during the E-Mobility Play Days, where six pilots will fly parallel.

It’s going to be rather challenging for the pilots as it is not a typical high speed course, but an interesting mixture of speed, precision flying and strategy. The Trap-Gates – inspired by the four elements earth, wind, fire and air – are integrated in this track. A track of this calibre did not exist until now.

For example, we have integrated a water gate into the track, which requires precision flying to avoid water damage. Drone electronics and water are never a good idea so the pilots have to be very careful here. In addition, there is a fire-based slalom course, which ought to be avoided. Nobody likes roasted FPV drones. And of course, there are plenty of other gates requiring skill and precision. I don’t want to give too much away at this stage. All of these obstacles together with the track have been pulled together by our creative designers.

Who do you think the teams to watch will be?

The DR.ONE pilots are some of the best in the world. Everybody can be the winner; everybody is worth seeing.

The first time I heard about DR.ONE was more than a year ago. Right from the beginning it was agreed to plan something very special and different to existing events. Regarding the statistics: We have 18 pilots from 14 nations. Every pilot brings about five full operational drones to the event in case of failures or losses as the race can be very demanding.

All in all there will be 23 heats in three groups, so there will be a lot to watch and it will be exciting from beginning until the end because of the race mode. Every point is important to qualify for the final races. Also, 400 live spectators can watch the race on site, of course kept safe by a very stable safety net.