DR1 Brings Quadcopter Racing to the Big Time

July 17, 2016 by Jeremy Lee

Twelve pilots, two days, and more quadcopters than can be counted. The fastest flying robots in the word, piloted by the best of quadcopter pilots. Multirotor racing is entering the big time.

Twelve pilots, two days, and more quadcopters than can be counted. The fastest flying robots in the word, piloted by the best of quadcopter pilots. Multirotor racing is entering the big time.

Luke "BanniUK" Bannister has won the first DR1 invitational drone race held at the end of June. The event took place at Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles, built by the Army Corp of Engineers in the 1940s (and often seen in television and film for everything from car commercials to the end credits of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!"). 

This was the first Drone Racing Invitational. The event was covered in-depth by Alex Edit, who runs a drone-centric vlog on his YouTube channel and runs UrbanDrones.


The Pilots

The event sponsors invited twelve pilots who were winners and strong contenders of previous open competitions such as Chad "FinalGlideAUS" Nowak, who swept the Drone Nationals in Sacramento Last year, or Luke, who won in Dubai. They also invited well-known pilots who were instrumental in the development of the sport long before competitions existed such as Carlos "Charpu" Puertolas and Kevin "Stingerswarm" Dougherty.


Luke Bannister (center) tuning his quad. Image courtesy of Alex Edit.

There were twelve pilots who were invited to take part in the event. Many of the competitors have nicknames related to their YouTube channels where you can see examples of their flying skill, or hear extensive discussions about their equipment, builds, and techniques:

  • Tommy “UmmaGawd” Tibajia
  • Chad “FinalGlideAUS” Nowak
  • Jordan “Jet” Temkin
  • Luke “BanniUk” Bannister
  • Zachry "A_Nub" Thayer
  • Kevin “StingerSwarm” Dougherty
  • Bapu “Bapu FPV” Madhu
  • Carlos “Charpu” Puertolas
  • Shaun “NYTFury” Taylor
  • Phil “Freybott” Freybott
  • Gary “Justice FPV” Kent
  • Johnny "Johnny FPV" Schaer

Participants preparing for the race. Image courtesy of Alex Edit.


This group is well-known to FPV enthusiasts because they've proven their worth in previous events and competitions. Organisers were pleased with how smoothly the event progressed thanks to the experience and dedication of the pilots, and the pilots expressed their admiration for the innovative new 3D elements of the course. Spectators were put closer to the action than ever before, in protected tents right on the line.

Races were commentated by the loquacious "Mr. Steele", a strong competitor in previous events who has therefore brought experience to the microphone. 

The Quadcopters

Organisers provided competitors with a common base platform of Vortexes and ImmersionRC transmitters, but individual pilots quickly adapted them to their own needs and styles— or flew their own personally-made craft.



Images courtesy of Alex Edit.


Luke, for example, uses a Taranis X9 transmitter, FatShark Dominator goggles, and flies on 4S batteries. He is also reported to favor 5045 tri-blade bull-nose props, but the exact motors, ESC, flight controller, and frame he uses could not be determined.

The Course

After dodging flags, gates, the inner walls of shipping crates (as well as each other), the final "leg" of the track is something you can find in no other sport—a 3D "corkscrew" around the concrete dam bridge before coming home.


The corkscrew route. Original image courtesy of Alex Edit.

Image courtesy of Alex Edit.


The Future of Quadcopter Racing

The invitational was sponsored by Mountain Dew (a division of PepsiCo) in what is being seen as the first entry of a major sponsor traditionally associated with other "extreme" sports. The entire event was filmed and streamed on Twitch. It will also be broadcast later this year (likely in August) on Discovery and the Science Channel. Learn more at the DR1 website.

This is some of the highest-level exposure and support quadcopter racing has seen to-date. And with any luck, it's just the beginning.

In the coming years, perhaps we could see even larger events made possible by big-name sponsors and watched by cheering crowds. Show your support by watching the broadcast later this summer!