Monday, 19 December 2016

Presenting Drone Racing 101

Friday was our annual staff un-conference where the staff are the speakers, and I did a talk about flying drones entitled 'Drone Racing 101 (with actual live drone racing!)'.

It was really neat getting up in front of a supportive crowd to talk about something that I love doing, getting to demonstrate the flying of drones and answer some basic questions on what you need to get started.

We even did some indoor flying around the conference room which was very cool. It was close-quarters FPV flying between the seats with micro drones, with my video stream also being projected up for people to see.

I've put up the contents here for anyone who wanted to go over the content again or to see what I was talking on if you couldn't make it.

Presentation Notes

Here are my cut-down notes, links, and the videos from my talk.

Links a great guide for getting to know what you can and can't do in controlled airspace Yes, I actually used this link.
#x-drones on Slack

Example Kit Bundles

Prices and tech will obviously vary over time, but these are my current top picks for the gear to get started with minimal thought and expenditure. Bundle prices are somewhat inflated as you'll want to think about getting extra blades, blade guards, possibly more batteries or some other spares.
Note that: Most video equipment can be mix and matched, but transmitters usually have one language that they speak, so you have to be sure that your quad and your transmitter will use the same protocol.

For those of you who were at the conference - if you need a hand picking something nice out for yourself I'm happy to lend a hand.

NZD$300 Kit

This is a kit that contains the quad we were flying around during the presentation. I think this little quadcopter is the absolute shizzle and think it would be good for anyone who wants to get into it (I have plans to get my 8yr old flying one once he progressed from his current simulator training). The transmitter gets ok ratings, and while cheap it has memory for more than one model and you can use normal receivers in it if you want to get larger multirotors or get into other types of models.

Eachine QX95 and FlySky Transmitter bundle ($160)
Eachine Goggles (no diversity) ($67)

NZD$450 Kit

This quad is better for outdoors and windier environments, and the goggles has a diversity receiver which selects the best of two signals and displays that for optimal reception. These goggles can be used with the QX95 in the selection above.

Eachine Wizard 220 Class Quad and Transmitter bundle ($277)
Eachine Goggles (diversity) ($114)

NZD$1000+ Kit

As with all good hobbies; you can always get more expensive kit - I mentioned the Fat Shark goggles and Taranis transmitter in my talk - these are pretty darn good. I couldn't personally recommend the Fat Sharks (partly because I love my DIY solution, partly because of no direct experience, but they rate well), but the FrSky Taranis transmitter is a good investment if you're keen on RC and want a transmitter that will do pretty much everything you will ever need. (n.b: FrSky isn't FlySky spelt wrong - its a different brand & protocol)

FrSky Taranis ($336)
Fat Shark Dominator HD ($730)


Just in case you need a visual reminder. Please keep in mind that this was done for fun, not profit, and all the images were blatantly pinched from around the 'net.
Drone Racing 101 - Blog Edit (Powerpoint)



  • Venue staff: You were really helpful getting me the kit I needed to display the video feed to my crowd. Thanks heaps.
  • Unconference organisers: Thanks for the opportunity!
  • Mark: Thanks for coming in and flying with me during the presentation - sorry that we didn't get to fly in a more interesting space like I had originally envisaged!
  • Evan: For watching the door.
  • Trade Me peeps: Public speaking is something I want to be good at, you made it really easy and awesome to give it a go. Thanks for all the positive feedback and for letting me use the video from the presentation on my blog.
A few notes on safety for those that are wondering - before flying I gave a safety briefing about quadcopters having fast moving parts (I actually described them as a flying Galaxy Note 7 with whirling knives attached), and had someone mind the door to prevent people from walking in unexpectedly. A few of my colleagues were a bit enthusiastic and tried to get hands-on, but overall I was pretty happy with the safety of the situation.
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