6th - 9th October 2023 - Namwon, South Korea
I started aeromodelling 35 years ago when I was 19. Initially my interest was with heli’s, but I struggled with orientation issues so swapped to planes, the theory being I would move back to heli’s, but I never did.
I flew planes for many years competing in the Funfly class at Regional and National level. When my children were born this took me away from the hobby for many years. As the pull of swimming classes, toddler groups with the kids wore off, I ventured back into the hobby with small ‘toy’ quads which I could annoy the family with around the house. This really reignited the fun in flying again, but this time with quads and FPV. I competed for several years for the National series of ‘Drone Racing’ but realised that I was on the way out (as I couldn’t react as fast as the up and coming youngsters).
I still fly quads and enjoy freesytyle, but not sure how many more Drone racing events I will take part in as a participant. Instead, I have moved over to assisting running the Drone racing side of the hobby at Club and National level. I am currently the Secretary of the BDRA and was very pleased to be made Manager of the GBR Team for the trip to Korea in October 2023. I am very much looking forward to going overseas with the hobby and Korea. It just sounds amazing.
I started flying when I was 12, when my dad and I built an F450 filing quadcopter from YouTube tutorials we had seen online. I quickly became fascinated by the technicalities of the hobby (what made it fly, how I could make it fly faster and for longer) and immediately became hooked. I competed in my first ‘FPV’ event in Weston Super Mare in the summer of 2018, and haven’t stopped competing since!
Throughout my model flying career, I’ve developed my racing setups a lot, including working on a lot of frame designs with Chris at HaloRC. Product development is a big part of the hobby for me, and I really enjoy working on my setups to try and get as fast as I can on the track. It’s also nice to see some of my design principles end up on products that are on the market today.
Some of the skills and interests I have gotten out of this hobby have also transferred into my working life and vice versa. I currently work as an aircraft maintenance engineering apprentice in Oxford. Some principles about the models I fly have definitely helped in my studies and its enabled me to bring some of my engineering ideas to the hobby too.
For the championships, I am really looking forward to travelling out to South Korea to experience the culture and to compete for my country. I also cant wait to meet new people that are in the same hobby as me, and hopefully gain a bit more of an insight as to how the racing works abroad and how it differs to our BDRA events back home. I know the standard of pilots is going to be really good, but hope to make a good ranking by the end of the tournament. I would like to thank the BMFA for being a core sponsor of our trip, and thank everyone else who has donated any amount of money to help us get out to Korea.
Thanks for reading,
I started drone racing back in 2017 when I stumbled across a video of it on YouTube, after seeing the video I bought a cheap drone and started to learn to fly, build and repair my drones with the help of lots of people in the community. After doing my first race a couple years later I was hooked and dreamed of being the best in the UK someday. To meet that goal I practiced as much as i could (at least once a week). And quickly got sponsors to help me pursue my dream. slowly I began to win more and more races over the following years and eventually 2 British championships.
The next goal was to race internationally but drone racing took a big hit during COVID. So I am very excited to do my first international race finally in 2023 at the FAI world championship at Korea. I’m mostly looking forward to meeting all my fellow pilots who I have talked to online for years and would be very happy with a top 10 finish.
2020 was when I first got into FPV. After watching YouTube for hours in my lockdown boredom, trying to find something interesting, I found a MRsteel video and thought, “I want to do that.” But after flying freestyle for a few months, things got boring. Who would think being in the middle of a field by yourself would be boring?
But the Christmas of 2021 was when I first started racing. Near where I lived, there was a tent in the middle of a golf course with a whoop track inside that did races every Friday night. I would spend countless hours in the racing or just practicing, doing 80-100 batteries every session. So when I started racing 5-inch in the 2022 season, I had a massive advantage and placed 12th overall at my first British champs. Since then, I’ve done more practice than anyone else and somehow got 2nd at British champs this year and qualified for WDRC (world drone racing championships).
Sporting our team clothing we checked in for our 9:20 pm flight to Shanghai. No problems in taking the quads and batteries through security (but they did show an interest in wet wipes ?)
After a two hour stopover in Shanghai we have a short two hour flight onto Seoul where we overnight before heading to the venue in Namwon on Thursday.
Following a breakfast made easier by an ordering machine with English translations, we embarked on a journey to central Seoul to catch a high-speed train bound for Namwon, the venue for our event. We dropped our luggage at the new hotel and proceeded to the venue, now joined by the full team: the Team Manager, three pilots, and three 'helpers' also known as 'Dads.'
The venue left us in awe. An expansive sports stadium had been transformed by the FAI into an impressive quad racing arena, surpassing even our wildest expectations. We snapped a few photos outside before checking in at reception and examining our goodie bags.
Next, we made our way to the photo area, where the pilots and I posed for headshots to be featured in the event graphics. In that moment, we felt truly special, gaining insight into the feelings of athletes at grand events like the Olympics.
We then strolled along the track, closely examining the challenging course that would test the pilots for the next four days. The most surprising aspect was the size of the obstacles; navigating them shouldn't be an issue, but the lengthy track would undoubtedly drain our batteries.
While on the track, we crossed paths with pilots and characters from around the world, many of whom we had only known through online chat groups and simulation races. It felt like meeting our heroes, but we reminded ourselves that, in the upcoming competition, these pilots are our peers and competitors. Our goal is clear: to outperform them in the upcoming event.
We arrived at the stadium bright and early, observing the initial 90 competitors as they practiced their rounds. There were some hiccups along the way, with obstacles and systems taking their time to get up to full speed. Next in line were the Germans, followed by us. We were all checked in, fully charged, and raring to go. But then...
All racing abruptly came to a halt as preparations for the opening ceremony took over. By "suspended," I mean a truck drove onto the field and began constructing a stage. Complaints were voiced by the seven teams, and practice was rescheduled for Saturday morning.
However, what a spectacular opening ceremony it turned out to be. We stood in line outside, each country's team behind their national flags, surrounded by local dancers.
When the music commenced, we entered the stadium. It felt like the Olympics, but this was our Olympics, and we were proudly representing our country. After walking a lap around the running track, we settled into our seats for speeches and performances.
Following the formal remarks from country officials and the swearing-in of FAI officials, the grand show began. It was a spectacle with fireworks, a mesmerising drone display, and performances by Korean pop bands, etc.
Now, we're looking ahead to day 4, with hopes that we'll finally get to take to the stage.
Our practice session was scheduled for 8:04 this morning. Everything was going smoothly until our session was unexpectedly cut short by 2 minutes when another team entered the track.
Fortunately, it was agreed that we would have another short session to compensate for the lost time. Unfortunately, this extra session turned into chaos for some of our pilots, resulting in crashes and significant damage to their drones.
After repairs and In the first round of qualifying, Joshy managed a solid 3 laps. Saul was next up but encountered trouble as he smoked a motor within the first 100 meters, likely due to undiagnosed damage from the practice session. Owen, on the other hand, performed exceptionally well and secured a spot in the top section of the leaderboard.
Round 2 showed improvement for all our pilots, with each of them completing 3 laps. Owen's outstanding performance even put him in the lead for his round, earning him a few minutes of fame on TV. Joshy had a slightly shaky start but eventually found his rhythm, finishing with faster laps.
Moving on to Round 3, the final round of qualifying, we were racing under the dark with LED lights illuminating the track beautifully. Owen went first and delivered solid laps, securing his place in the top 64 (where participants advance to the eliminations). Joshy, a relative newcomer to this level of competition, did an excellent job, marking a remarkable achievement by making it through to the next round in less than 18 months of flying experience.
Saul, unfortunately, continued to face technical issues in his third round. His quad lacked video, and I’ve was out as. He was in 71st place following the first two rounds.
However, a surprising turn of events occurred. Saul was granted an additional round, perhaps due to general dissatisfaction with the day's events. Back to the drawing board, we fixed the quad (once again) and hoped it would power up during model processing. Thankfully, it did. Saul launched his quad off the line and completed two impressive laps. Then disaster struck as he collided with a turn pylon at full speed, causing his model to spin off the track. We anxiously waited, unsure if Saul had made it through, but he did. What a relief!
Unexpectedly, protests were filed by other pilots about their rounds, which cast doubt on Joshy's position in particular. After an hour of deliberation, and at 10 pm, the decision was made, and Joshy had his spot in the next round.
It was truly an extraordinary day, and we are all eagerly anticipating the main rounds tomorrow. (We have included several pictures from the TV coverage as we were too occupied to take many of our own today.)
David Allen, Team Manager
This marks the conclusion of the tournament, and we have perhaps one, maybe two pilots left in contention.
As we undergo result audits and determine the number of junior pilots, we discover that Joshy will not have another chance to fly. As I write these words on the plane journey back home, we don't yet know his final ranking, but what we do know is that Joshy has emerged as our top junior pilot.
Following some deliberation among officials and Team GBR, a decision is reached regarding the timing of the final rounds. The schedule from the previous night is reinstated, ensuring that those tuning in to watch the broadcast from the UK won't need to adjust their alarm clocks.
Team Managers are summoned to a meeting where clarifications to the rules are discussed, all aimed at ensuring a level playing field for all competitors.
The quads are fired up and lined up on the track. John, Owen's father does a jig on the line, perhaps it's a way to mask the tension and nerves. Owen takes his seat and with fellow pilot Saul as his spotter, lowers his goggles, and awaits the starter's commands. When the timing beep sounds, they're off. With family members, supporters, and the Team Manager anxiously watching from the sidelines.
The speed is astonishing as they navigate the track with uncanny precision, almost as if they're on the same set of rails. They deftly handle the numerous obstacles they've become accustomed to over the past three days. Even the skilled cameraman struggles to keep up, despite four days of practice. Owen's Dad, John, is on the edge of his seat as his son races. Owen pushes himself to the limit, employing his top speed and the best lines he's honed over years of practice. His battery drains as he maintains high throttle through straights and tight bends.
Then, a pilot crashes into an obstacle. Could this be Owen's opportunity? However, he's still competing against two of the world's best. Does he have what it takes to propel himself into the top two, the positions needed to continue?
Regrettably, it's not meant to be, and he holds onto third place as the race concludes. We're not moving forward, but the experience has been nothing short of remarkable.
Owen, along with the other GB pilots Saul and Joshy, must take pride in their accomplishments. They've given it their all, and together we've ridden the rollercoaster of competition, arriving at our conclusion. As we journey home, we carry with us a trove of joyful memories, stories to share, and anticipation for the next competition.
That's the wrap from Korea.
A very proud GBR Team Manager.