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Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

A drone pilot's equipment is pretty simple: a headset shows a first person point-of-view video stream from their drone. The pilot uses the video stream to steer and maneuver the drone through turns and gates on the race course.

We attended the California Drone Speed Challenge at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco to get some insight on what it means to be a drone pilot. 

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

This is what a pilot sees during a race.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Patrick Holland/CNET / Read the article
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Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Here's part of the race course. Rope lights indicate the path. In the middle is a rectangular cage where the drone pilots sit while they compete against each other.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Two pilots compete head-to-head during a qualifying heat.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
4
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

A pilot places his drone on the starting block.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
5
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

A drone on its starting block ready to launch.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
6
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

The two small upright black rectangles on the bottom of the photo are the starting blocks. The blurry colorful streaks are the drones taking off at the start of a race.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Two drones take off and race through the course.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Patrick Holland/CNET / Read the article
8
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

The only citations issued were accolades for how fast the drones were flying. The officer clocked one drone flying 103 miles-per-hour.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Racer Tony Thompson readies his drone for a qualifying heat. There are few actual restrictions about the drones. For this race, propellors had to be less than 6-inches in diameter and batteries had to be under a certain power rating.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Racing drones can take quite a beating (which can be fun to watch as a spectator). But this also means pilots need to be able to quickly repair their drones between heats.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
11
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

All racing drones have an LED lights which makes them easier to follow as they speed through the course.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
12
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Two drones hang on the safety netting that surround the pilots' pit area. You do not want to get hit by a drone going 103 miles-per-hour.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
13
of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Pilots in the Xfinity California Drone Speed Challenge compete for part of a $10,000 prize. But they all get these sweet red jackets.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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of 15

Portrait of a drone pilot

What a drone pilot sees

Race course

Race cage

The starting line

It's going for speed

The start of a drone race

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank

No tickets were issued

DIY drones

Propellor repair

Let there be light

Netting a couple of drones

Big money, red jacket

Yep, it's fun

Did we mention that racing drones is fun? It is. For more about drone racing check out our article on how it's becoming a big sport.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Josh Miller/CNET / Read the article
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