George Purdy of Drone Services Hawaii (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Raphael Pirker of Team Blacksheep (Image: Hawaii News Now)
KUALOA RANCH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Nearly 200 drone pilots from around the world have converged on Kualoa Ranch for Hawaii's first-ever World Drone Racing Championships.
In the tournament, teams must maneuver their drones through 13 rings and three H-shaped gates before crossing the finish line. Teams are vying for a $100,000 cash prize.
"It's like a computer game, a cyber sport," said Oleksiy Yermilov, of Team Ukraine. "It goes so fast, not everyone can catch it."
Pilots wear goggles to see from the drone's perspective.
"We're all having a great time racing and leaving it out on the track," said George Purdy, of Drone Services Hawaii.
In August, the FAA opened the skies for widespread usage of commercial drones. A pilot's license is no longer needed to operate the unmanned aircrafts.
Purdy says the industry is soaring to new heights and creating employment opportunities. "There is a bigger picture and future jobs for our children in engineering, propulsion, guidance and computer programming," he said.
One minor celebrity at the event: Raphael Pirker. In 2012, he became the first drone pilot to be fined by the FAA for allegedly flying a drone recklessly to film the University of Virginia.
After a three-year battle, a federal judge dismissed the proposed $10,000 fine. Pirker says the case changed the rules of the game.
"I think since the court case, there's been a shift in the mentality for drones," he said. "It's really something beneficial that they need to accept into the national air space."
For more information on the championships, which run through Sunday, click here.