During the Drone Rodeo at CES, the fastest pilots race for aerial supremacy

Roughly 45 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, amid the sprawling sands and sparse flora of the desert, lies the Aerodrome, the premier location for drone enthusiasts to come and learn how to fly. It’s a place where drone pilots can fly without fear of breaking regulations. For years now, when CES rolls around, drone crowds descend on the aerodrome for the Drone Rodeo, an event where manufacturers can show off the latest in drone technology, where hobbyists can learn all about the next generation of drones, and perhaps most impressively, where drone racers flaunt their skills in dazzling displays of drone maneuvering.

“We’re super excited to be out here again,” Skyfire Consulting CEO Ben Kroll told Digital Trends. “This year we’ve got a lot of stuff going on. We’ve got drone racing, we’ve got MultiGP, which is an international organization that’s done drone races all over the place. And then we’ve got several different vendors that are out here, showing off new technology.”

That new technology should excite maverick drone racers who feel the need for speed. This year, according to Kroll, “We’ve got a couple of folks that are proclaiming to have the fastest production racing drone in the world right now.”

To the uninitiated, drone racing may not sound all that impressive, but compared to ordinary drone flying, it’s another world entirely. Racing drones can exceed speeds of 100mph and require constant, precise control to avoid crashing. Making things even more challenging, racers wear headsets during the race, seeing the world through their drone’s camera lenses.

Drone racing can be an intimidating scene, given the equipment and skill involved, but one of the companies involved with the Drone Rodeo, Fat Shark, has designed an entry-level racing drone (complete with headset) in the hopes of easing novices into the high-octane world.

Drone racers may have competition in the future — from the drones themselves. Among the trends in the drone world in 2018 is the development of autonomous drones. “One of the things that’s been difficult,” Kroll said, “is to develop an indoor autonomous flying drone that can learn as it flies, and learn its surroundings as it flies.”