The Baltimore Drone Racing League Begins this Weekend

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Photo courtesy Open Works/Global Air Media

Baltimore’s first-ever drone racing league kicks off this weekend in Greenmount West.

Nonprofit education and maker space Open Works is hosting the Baltimore Drone Prix this Saturday. Drone racers of any skill level will have the chance to navigate their tactile aircraft through obstacle courses, with the fastest ones taking home cash prizes.

The “first-person view” style of racing is akin to a video game. Racers wear goggles that display a live video feed from the drone’s point-of-view. These competitions have recently taken off: ESPN aired its first-ever drone racing competition last fall, with the Drone Racing League championships concluding on ESPN2 on Nov. 20.

Here’s a quick view of what the emerging tech-driven sport looks like, courtesy of Open Works and Global Air Media, which are hosting the Drone Prix.

While participants of all levels can compete, each is required to bring his or her own drone equipped with a camera, as well as a radio controller, first-person view goggles and spare propellers and antennae, among other items for maintenance and safety. Click here for a full list.

Open Works general manager Will Holman said more than 200 people have already registered for the Saturday races.

The nonprofit and Global Air Media teamed up last month to begin offering workshops and classes at Open Works. The tutorials show youth and adults how to learn how to build their own drones, receive training in drone-based photography, cinematography and mapping and, of course, race them to see who can fly the fastest. Classes for teens are available on Thursdays in May, which Open Works has designated as “drone month.”

Holman said 14 people attended their first workshop last week. Participants built palm-sized drones from kits and flew them in Open Works’ lobby. Staff then demonstrated how a larger, camera-equipped drone works outside, flying it above the building on Greenmount Avenue.

This Saturday’s Drone Prix coincides with the opening weekend of Light City 2017. Holman said the races were scheduled to “take advantage of all the life and activity coming to the city this week.”

If this race is successful, Open Works looks forward to hosting plenty more of them. “We’re just super excited to be a part of bringing this new sport to Baltimore,” he said.

Registration for the competition is free online here, and guests are welcome. The event kicks off at noon, with the first drones taking flight at 1 p.m.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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