What happens after the drone racing ends? Some pilots go home. But many keep the race going.
Pilots know a racing event is usually a handful of adrenaline pumping flying and hours of hanging out with friends. Between heats you’re talking about flying, the build of everyone’s drones, and what’s great about the course. It’s exciting and fun. And sometimes it doesn’t end when the race does.
XDC_2 was one one of those times. In the cool winter of January in Las Vegas, drone racing filled up the Zappos headquarters. A well-crafted, unique course spiralled through the building. A special mecha-guest greeted pilots when they arrived in the morning. Nytfury (Shaun Taylor), won $2,500 for the championship race. That night he won more.
After the event, everyone was invited to an empty warehouse. Picture the pilot protagonists driving through Las Vegas after sunset. They walk up to the huge warehouse doors. The doors open and light pours out. There’s a DJ booth set up with music pounding, there’s bottles and beer and pizza. It’s a nightclub. It’s still 95% men, but that’s alright because the real beauty in the room is the race course.
The place was set up by two guys with little experience in drone racing. They had money to spend though, and that more than made up for it. The gates were built with PVC pipes, ropes of LED lights, and key sections of the course were brightly lit with spotlights. “Will this work?” they ask the pilots. Heck yeah it will.
The prize money comes out to start the races. It’s literally stacks of cash.
Two pilots go head to head in a single lap. The winner gets a crisp Benjamin and keeps their seat. Challenger takes the other seat, another head to head. At $500 the winner vacates his spot to spread the money around. The first two pilots to get $500 have their own head to head for another $500. Later on you get FPV beer racing between a few people. Pilots chug a beer (first one to finish gets $100), then start flying. Winner? Another $100.
Dubai was another race that never ended. And no, not just because the last race of Day 1 started past midnight. There were live bands playing just for the Drone Prix. Light shows went on late into the night. And then there was the normal Dubai nightlife for teams to enjoy.
Mega Drone X saw a continuation of what’s becoming the longest running drone race tradition. Team Big Whoop rented out a big house on AirBnB and packed it full of pilots. This is Dronehaus, version 3.0. In between beers, pilots are talking about the day’s race and how they did. They’re talking about what the latest build fad is while drunkenly flying mini-quads around a pretend course. Or just hitting people.
Not all after parties are as notable as underground Vegas racing, Animal House shenanigans, or Dubai opulence. Most are like what the pilots do for the Drone Racing League. For the duration of the shoot the DRL pilots are holed up in the same hotel. At the end of the race day they’ll chill outside with a few cases of beer and just talk. And it’s the talking that’s always the same whether you’re in a big city, inside a cave, or at a park with beer, BBQ, and FPV.