Interview with Herve Pellarin – From forest racing to the Champs-Élysées

drone racing in french forest

Herve Pellarin is considered one of the forefathers of drone racing. He helped to organise what is known as the very first race in a forest in northern France in 2014.

These days, Herve is the Marketing Director at ImmersionRC, a member of the ERSA board and collaborates with the French Airforce Drone department too.

We chatted with him to find out about his various endeavors in the field of drones, and more on the early days of drone racing.Profile picture of Herve Pellarin

Third Law Sports: Herve, thanks for chatting with us. So let’s go all the way back to 2014. Can you tell us about that first race, how did it come about and who was involved?

Herve: Hello! Well the story is really quite a simple one. I used to fly with my friends in the field behind my place during lunches. One day, the farmer Patrice came to see me to tell me that he needed use of the field once more for his cows, meaning that I needed to find a back up plan!

I knew this piece of forest because I’ve been going since there I was five years old, and at lunchtime it’s pretty empty so it was time to prepare the backup plan, but first I wanted to ensure this was a more permanent solution.

As such I spoke with the council and the forest department and agreed a deal which allowed us to use a section of the forest between 12pm and 2pm for an FPV racing practice track. This was stage one. I then had the idea of organizing an FPV race but first I realized I needed to visualise what this would mean in reality.

First off we organized a practice session, this turned as a race and seeing as we had so much fun I decided to make a video to tell people “Hey, if you have friends and some forest, here’s something that you might like to try”.

Now two years later, I’ve finally organized the race I envisioned. This was the FPV Airshow in the south of France. There were 173 pilots, from 14 countries, and it was a fantastic success. People were flying from 9am until 4am!

Third Law Sports: You’re currently involved across the field of drone racing, including notably working with the French Airforce. In what capacity do you work with them and what does you work consist of?

Herve: It’s a sort of think tank, in that we are exploring tomorrow’s use for civilian drones, including projections of the regulation that will definitely be needed. Moreover in order to test our theories somewhat, I have access to a huge airspace that I can use for all sorts of test flights.

Third Law Sports: ERSA is a relatively new organisation focused on the scene in Europe. Can you shed some light about the forthcoming showcase down the Avenue Champs-Élysées?

Herve: The Council of Paris is doing an event around drones and their usage. ERSA, as a recognized authority in Europe, received the challenge to set up a demo race right on the Champs-Élysées, which is like racing through Times Square in New York City.

This is, of course, a hugely challenging experience, but the goal which is our top priority is to encourage people to change their opinion regarding our sport, or give them one to begin with!

We are entering during a period of education which is much needed.

ERSA Team Photo 5.7.16

Third Law Sports: To what do you attribute the growth of this sport?

Herve: This is a sport which could not have existed five years ago. The constant developments across technology, from tools to share data, to programs and everything else – this sport is a mirror of our time in that it’s one which uses high end technology and truly pushes the limits of what we’re capable of.

The social media aspect has also been vital in the growth of the community; the fundamentals were born by people being able to get in touch with each other with ease. That is how the fundamentals were born.

Third Law Sports: Anything else on your horizon in terms of personal involvement with drone racing?

Herve: When I find the time I intend to practice, practice, practice and participate in a race myself!


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