Drones buzz through the air and pilots stand just outside the yellow caution tape with headsets that cover their eyes and remote controls bigger than their heads.
First-person-view, or FPV, drones have taken over Whistler’s Bend Park this weekend. The drone racing started Friday and will continue until later this evening.
Derek Brown of Next Level RC is hosting the 2017 West Coast Throwdown, which drew people from as far as Mexico and the Eastern United States to what he calls “our secret gem of an FPV playground.”
“We’re the first to pull the trigger on an event like this in Douglas County,” fellow organizer Nathan Baker said. “This is a great place to do it.”
What makes Whistler’s Bend perfect for drone racing are the variations in open and wooded terrain.
A course was laid out, complete with obstacles such as rings and gates, on a field that was 75 percent grass and 25 percent densely wooded area.
The wooded area caused some trouble for Angela Jacques, of Mexico, who piloted her x-class racing drone into the trees more than once.
X-class racing drones are bigger, longer drones that are fairly new to the racing competition. “It’s like flying a boat,” Brown said.
The event is organized by pilots for pilots and includes a little bit of everything.
“At big events the pilots sometimes feel used to make it into a show,” Brown said. “We like to just do a little bit of everything.”
This includes open flight line races, freestyle competitions, X-Class racing and demos and many other events for pilots.
Northwest FBV pilots Chase “Chez of Flip City” Bailey and Steve “Maverick” Archer travelled from Portland to compete and reconnect with other FPV racers.
‘We fly in park and we always have a spotter,” Archer said. “Here it’s sectioned off. We’ve been trying to get a dedicated field —like a disc golf course or dog park— to regularly do competition, but the city doesn’t want to deal with new people.”
Pilots at the West Coast Throwdown welcomed newcomers to the sport and were available to teach them about etiquette, safety and best practices.
“You have to have a little bit of a background in electronics,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of tuning and sometimes a lot of frustration.”
Bailey and Archer, who have been racing together for about 2 years, will be competing in today’s freestyle competition and were practicing their stunts and speeds on a nearby field.
Douglas County Parks charges a $4 parking fee, but there is no other fee to watch the event.
Sports reporter Sanne Godfrey can be reached at 541-957-4203 or via email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey