At Dover Speedway, Drones Add New Element To Race Day
Tom Wilke pulled goggles down over his face and became the pilot of a tiny robot.
The countdown ended and drones’ blades spun. With three other pilots, all peering through cameras built onto the machines, Wilke’s drone leaped from the starting pedestal and the race was on.
The controller in his hands adjusted for pitch and yaw and speed, sending the four-rotor robot whizzing up and around a racecourse. The quadcopter buzzed — blink once and it was gone.
But Wilke was seated in bleachers, and the goggles made his point of view for the race first person.
“It’s the most immersive feeling in the world,” Wilke said. “When you get underneath the goggles, the rest of the world fades away and it’s just you and the quad. You’ll even forget you’re sitting down — you feel like you are actually flying.”
Wilke and his team, Expert Drones out of the Washington D.C. area, had come for a weekend at Dover International Speedway. It wasn’t for the racetrack’s typical kind of race.
Thousands came for NASCAR’s AAA 400 race. But Expert Drones and 15 other teams came for the International Drone Racing Association’s first event in a three-year agreement at the speedway.
IDRA is only two years old, but as drones become more accessible to the public at large and increasingly popular as tinkering and technology form the basis for ever more clubs and organizations, the organization is hopeful it can grow quickly.
And with NASCAR fans already enamored of engines, speed, and competition, IDRA Vice President of Compliance Brandon Wright said Dover’s Speedway could make an ideal home.