Giant Drone Racing, Swooping Get More Legit

See the swoopers compete for their first FAI title in August.

A swoop competitor
A swoop competitor performs a flip as part of his “Freestyle Trick,” judged on a point scale for difficulty and execution.

The opportunities to triumph over a competitor are getting more varied, thanks to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the organization that ratifies world aviation records. The FAI has added two more events to its purview. In March, the organization signed on with the Australian group Freedom Drone Sports to create drone racing, including specs for track design, criteria for aircraft certification, and competition rules. Unlike the U.S.-based Drone Racing League (see “Racing Drones,” Dec. 2016/Jan. 2017), which offers many competitions for drones of varying sizes and skills, Freedom is concentrating on just one. Its racing drone is standardized, and pretty darn big—four feet across and 66 pounds. It can reach up to 125 mph on the racetrack. Among other benefits, the giant drones are meant to be more visually appealing for spectators.

While fans wait for word on the launch of FAI’s drone races, they can enjoy the inaugural competition of the FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships. Swooping is parachuting down to a lake and performing high-speed stunts across the water’s surface. Developed on the fringes of the skydiving scene, the extreme hobby first saw competitions around 2015. It will officially become an FAI sport when 20 swoopers meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, on August 25 and 26. Competitors will drop from 5,000 feet to Copenhagen Harbor, where they must execute precision turns and tricks at speeds up to 100 mph and while in contact with the water, before landing on a small floating platform.

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This story is a selection from the June/July issue of Air & Space magazine

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