Finding a drone racing event can be difficult while local meetups may no longer satisfy you. Why not organize your own racing event? Here is a guide on how to organize an FPV racing event by yourself.

But before going ahead, I urge you to read my article on how to find an FPV racing event, if you haven’t.

Form A Project Team

You need a team to organize a successful FPV racing event.
To run a successful event, you need to form a team.

A drone racing competition is way more complex than a meetup. To make it successful, you need to first set up a project team. 

While it may sound scary, you actually need to get only a few people who are interested to join your team. Each of your team members would have a different knowledge, skills, experience, and networks that can benefit the planning and execution of this project. On top of that, having a project team allows you to divide the responsibility to each person, so that you are not overwhelmed.

Budgeting for Your Drone Racing Event

Even if you already have a massive plan for how your event is going to be, it will not matter if your budget could not handle it. Deciding on a budget will essentially restrict everything to a certain specification – making certain selections for the venue, fee, and prize easier to compute. 

Budgeting is important when organizing an FPV Racing Event.
Budgeting is an important behind-the-scene effort.

Budgeting is straightforward. It is basically income minus expenses. Set up a spreadsheet and list down all the potential expenses that will be incurred. Then, work backward and see how much you need in order to cover your expenses. With that, you can start to plan your source of income.

You could always impose fees for registration and participation based on your incurred expenses plus a few additional percent to give it a little more room to move in, but you should also consider if your target audience will pay for that amount. 

Of course, sponsorship is always an option for many, and it is probably one of the great choices out there. It is likely easier to ask for prize sponsorship, eg. an FPV goggle or a battery charger than cash. You could promote your event through local businesses (eg. through a banner in their shop or website) while also receiving monetary or material contributions. They could also handle various aspects of the event such as food stalls and other necessary details that could be outsourced to a business enterprise. 

However, you should probably think of what you are going to propose as an exchange first. Perhaps something like brand awareness campaigns or allowing them to sell their merch during the racing event. Sponsorship is a two-way street, and organizations will not be paying for the event if they are not getting anything in return. Be charming – that will probably boost your chances of getting them to say yes. 

Review your budget as you progress. Most likely you will need to adjust it as there are a lot of moving parts. But try to maintain the ballpark figure and work within your means.

Decide the Numbers of Participants

Deciding on your target number of participants is critical in ensuring that the event will proceed as efficiently as possible. This factor would also make or break your event as it has great implications on the budget when it comes to certain aspects such as location, registration, and other miscellaneous expenses that will be incurred to set everything up. 

For instance, if you decide to take in 100 participants, you will need a bigger space, more tracks, longer time, and more staff to handle the participants. You also need to consider if it is realistic to set such a target depending on your location.

You might ask, how do I even know how many potential participants I might have? Well, you will have to do some guessworks. You can conduct a poll in forums, local meetup groups or social media to gauge the public interest and use that as a clue when setting your participant numbers. 

Of course, you need to consider your capacity as well. If you are new in organizing events, you probably want to scale it down a bit.

Finding the Venue

Reserving the space that you are planning to utilize as the venue for the event is important to make sure that everything that is occurring within the area is under your supervision and has been validated and expected. 

Open spaces may bring about other people, their pets, and various other factors that could disrupt the progress of your race. As such, this should be considered to prevent any accidents that would put a damper on the spirit of the event. You also need to consider a plan B in case of rain.

Safety measures should also be implemented to make sure that both participants and outsiders alike are safe within the area. Adding markings may help, but it is more efficient if you scout the place first and observe any potential hazards that might cause an accident during the actual event.

On the other hand, you should also consider if your chosen venue would require certain formalities such as permits, proof of insurance, or a simple notification before you could begin the event. Certain locations such as university athletic fields may require specific paperwork that you would have to submit at least weeks before the tentative date. 

Most countries, such as the US, have defined no fly zones, or zones with certain restrictions for drones. For instance, locations near the airport might have a certain flight height limit. It is important to verify these first before proceeding so that you don’t go against the law. 

One last thing to consider is the convenience and comfort for the participants. For instance, if you choose a place which takes hours of driving from the nearest communities, you might not have many people participating. Other amenities such as shelter, seats, ventilation, washrooms and carparks can improve your participants’ experience and satisfaction, and make them want to come again in the future.

Oh, and you would probably want to be in a place where the participants could buy food and drinks. Unless you are planning to start one as well, of course.

Defining The Game Structure

There are various types of races, each with specific winning conditions. You need to choose the specific race(s) that you want your participant to compete in. 

Decide the game structure for your FPV racing event.
Rotorcross is the most common and exciting race type. Photo by FAI / All right reserved.

You may use a “rotorcross” type of race wherein multiple racers will simultaneously race towards the finish line to come out as the fastest. This is probably the most interesting racing format. There will be an additional risk of different drones crashing with each other though. 

A time trial is where racers take turns to clear the track within the shortest possible time. It is “safer” compared with rotorcross, but less exciting. Moreover, you need a lap timer to time each lap. You can either buy the lap timer or refer to this Github project for DIY. Another downside is that it needs a longer time to complete since everyone takes turns to fly.  

Meanwhile, In a drag race, pilots would have to compete against each other to cover a certain distance that is usually set up in a straight direction. I personally think it is the least exciting format, compared with the rest.

While a point system could be employed to determine the winner in the races, you could always utilize the elimination-type of qualification to quickly thin down the number of participants. However, this brings forth the problem that the result is not representative – making this selection rely heavily on a case-to-case basis. Elimination style is suitable if you have too many participants to handle, and their gap of skill is too big. However, those who are eliminated in the first round will not be happy about it. 

It is all up to you on what sort of game structure would you like to set. You can even mix them up. For instance, having drags for qualifying rounds and rotorcross for the finals, points for qualifying and elimination for finals etc. It’s all up to you. Just make sure you spell out the game structure correctly so that it doesn’t confuse the participants. 

Game Classification

To make the competition a little more uniform, you could specify certain “classes” of drones to either restrict or liberate the drone qualifications necessary to participate. Classes are usually defined based on size, weight, battery type, propeller qualities, motor, and so on. 

In restricting everything into a specific and defined class, you may employ a Spec Class competition that requires racers to only utilize drones with a certain specification. Open Class competitions, on the other hand, allows participants to use whatever part that they want for the race. 

Both classes have their pros and cons – uniformity and fairness being Spec Class’ pro and Open Class’ con, and wider scope being the Spec’s con and the Open’s pro – but the selection will ultimately depend on whether your participants can abide by such specifications or the number of participants that you are planning to entertain.

Designing Your Track

Race track at FAI World Drone Racing Championships 2018.
Race track at FAI World Drone Racing Championships 2018. You should definitely make something simpler! Photo by FAI / All right reserved.

Designing the racecourse from scratch could take weeks of planning and optimization just to get the right balance between challenging and feasible. However, you could always use layouts provided by major leagues such as MultiGP, to base your design on and compare your clear time too. 

It can be difficult to perfectly replicate the course as the venue and the environment can limit the design of the track. But of course, you can always fine tune it to add a personal touch to your very own race tournament.

Certain variations could be implemented here and there using materials such as field cones, feather flags, and gates – all of which should form a cohesive course that challenges the pilots’ skills. You could also include height aspects to the course to make it a little more challenging and give it a little more depth than a casual 2-dimensional racetrack. 

Setting Rules and Regulations

Setting rules and regulations for your event is very important. You want your participants to know what they can or cannot do, and what they should be expecting.

This should include the competition progression (scheduling for briefing, competition, and breaks), penalties and violations, restrictions, specification, tournament mechanics (time for each lap, elimination or point system, etc.), and even frequency management – a critical part in races involving numerous participants. 

Frequency management ensures that participants with overlapping channels or frequencies will not operate their drones at the same time. Failure to do so may result in a sudden power off or interference with their FPV feed, causing crashes or maybe even accidents. 

Grouping participants based on their available frequencies is an efficient method, but it will ultimately depend on the conditions that you will be employing during the actual race. As a helpful tip, you may establish the rule that idle participants should not turn on their drones to prevent interference with racing participants. Think of it as a sign of decency, at the very least, to avoid causing any problems to another racer.

Other rules and regulations that you need to spell out include but not limited to:

  • Safety precautions
  • Emergency protocol
  • Designated fly zone
  • Flight Altitude
  • Test flight on racing track
  • Agenda
  • Disclaimer

Preparing Necessary Resources

The resources that a race would require would majorly depend on the variation that you have chosen. For example, if you choose a time attack race, you might want to consider setting up more tracks so that multiple pilots can race parallely to save time. The track for drag would be much simpler than rotorcross or time attack.

Gates are essential in all FPV races.
Gates are bricks and motors of a race. Photo by Jenni Alderman / All right reserved.

Some of the obvious things you need include field cones, flags, timers, event management systems, and gates. Again, the necessity for each of these would depend on the race type and the venue that you will utilize – making it necessary to perform a scout first to determine the exact number of materials necessary for the event. Knowing the course, the participants, and the venue is essential in making this decision.

You should consider hiring a few people to help you manage the entire event better. For instance, onsite registration admin, moderator, area managers and etc to ensure that everything is smooth and safe for everyone participating. 

In addition to that, you want to distribute a copy of the rule book that you will be following for the race as this would ensure that everyone is aware of how the race is going to proceed. You may send it to the participants upon registration to give the participants a few weeks to review everything.

Make It Safe

Netting is a basic safety measure in any FPV drone racing event.
Netting is the basic safety measure for drone racing event. Photo by Jaz Cam / All right reserved.

You should make safety as your top priority. Drone racing is a high risk activity where there can be accidents such as collision between drones, crashing onto structures or people and battery catching fire. On top of drone-related risk, there are also general hazards that you need to identify and do something to mitigate the risk. 

Common safety measures that you should implement include netting to protect spectators and participants, having fire extinguisher and first aid kit readily accessible, clear escape path, rules on entering the fly zone, sufficient lighting (for indoor) and etc. has done a great job detailing the safety measures that you should consider implementing.

Implementing safety measures will consume a huge chunk of your time, sure, but you could never be too safe when it comes to, well, “safety.”

Promoting Your Racing Event

Although establishing a race event is pretty much provided with a standard procedure, advertising your event, and making it known, is something that will not necessarily follow a specific format. 

There are a lot of ways to advertise your event, but the most important thing to consider is if that method will be effective in encouraging participants to join. Sponsorships could prove to be an effective medium to disseminate details about your competition, but it is hard to rely on the sponsor’s willingness and on the sponsorship itself for the dissemination of your event.

Social media, on the other hand, is an effective tool that allows for vast distribution of information within seconds. Posting details and teasers regarding your event will help attract participants that will then encourage more individuals to participate. 

The same concept applies to newspapers, magazines, and radio – all of which are likewise effective in making your event known. It is more of a ripple effect in the sense that you only must attract a baseline number of pilots to keep the influx going. It is hard at first, but it eventually gets easier, and sometimes you get even more than what you have bargained for.

Participant Registration for The Racing Event

Gathering probable participants for your competition would require a certain type of registration system which could be filled up online or through physical forms. This would entail the production of a registration form that clearly defines the scope of the event, the prize, the venue, the qualifications, and the fees. It will be great if you can get their consent to store their contact so that you can contact them for future events. That makes it easier for you to run your future event. 

The registration form should also require participants to submit the available channels or bands that their drone can operate in to prevent interferences during the actual event. Likewise, this would define the groupings during the actual competition – preventing any interference that could prove to be dangerous for the drone and their operators.

In addition to that, you would also have to establish the account that you will be utilizing to receive the registration fees – making it easier to expedite the money that is going around, ensuring consistency. Storing this information is also critical to ensure that everything is accounted for and considered when the actual event day arrives, as well as for filing taxes.

As previously mentioned, you should be able to provide the participants with a complete copy of the rules that you will be utilizing in the competition. You can incorporate an acknowledgement in the registration form for them to sign as an indication of agreement to the rules and waiver, to avoid any disputes.

Another piece of advice that I can give, is not to close the registration too early even if you have received the desired number of participants. There will be absentees even if they have paid for the race. Hence, take a few more participants than you’ve expected and manage it accordingly if they all turn up.

Legalities and Due Process

Like how formal competitions work, you may also need to secure certain permits to be able to proceed with the event. Certain permits such as, noise permits, event permits, and even traffic permits may be necessary depending on the State that you are living in and your chosen event venue. You may consult this with the local authorities to process everything ahead of time and prevent any inconvenience on the actual day of the event.

Liability costs are sky-high. You better make sure you are covered for potential liability. You can consult the International Drone Association (IDRA) or the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) for advice. Both of them offer affordable commercial insurance for members. 

On the other hand, you need to make it clear to your participants that they must have liability insurance covering them, as this will be necessary when an unfortunate accident occurs. 

Final Words

By this point, you are equipped with the necessary information to establish your drone racing event. It seems daunting, and believe me, everyone feels that way at first. However, if you are willing to make the first step, you are closer to success.