Drone racers come to Cloverdale for inaugural indoor event

West Coast Drone Racing League flies in for Nov. 27 gathering at Agriplex

Drone racer Patrick Laing in the garage of his Surrey home.

SURREY — Patrick Laing says he loves the sense of speed and freedom he gets while racing his drone.

“You have a course but you can take any kind of line you want, vertically or through the corners,” the Surrey resident said. “It’s pretty cool.”

On Nov. 27, Laing and other racers will gather at Cloverdale Agriplex for an inaugural event that has the local drone-racing community buzzing.

The West Coast Drone Racing League will stage the day-long event as a trial run at the venue, at the rodeo fairgrounds.

The three dozen pilots involved will wear first-person-view goggles that allow them to see the action from a camera positioned on the nose of their drones.

The racers will come from places around the region – from Chilliwack to North Vancouver, said Ryan Stephan, the race organizer.

Until now, most of the local drone races have taken place outside or in parking garages and some other indoor facilities, mostly guerrilla style.

“There haven’t been a lot of formal events locally, only some informal gatherings on the weekend and stuff like that,” Laing explained. “This event coming up in Cloverdale is kind of the first large drone racing event in the six months I’ve been involved.”

In the garage of his family’s home in Newton, Laing tinkers with a variety of drones, some of them put together with 3D-printed parts.

“For years I’ve been playing with electronics and drones and other things that fly, typically smaller stuff that’s indoors,” explained Laing, who posts videos to a Youtube account.

(Story continues below video of Laing flying a drone outside his Surrey home)

“A few months ago I put together more of a racing drone, which is way higher performance than stuff you’re going to find on store shelves, commercially,” he added.

“The racing ones are way more do-it-yourself type of drones, and you do have to be pretty technically minded. You’re going to go out and destroy these things at some point, for sure, so you have to have some knowledge about how to put them back together.”

Stephan, who lives in Chilliwack, says drone racing isn’t quite a spectator sport yet, “even though it’s cool to see the drones zipping by and everything.”

At the Agriplex, the fee for spectators is $10 per person at the gate, or free for kids age 12 and under. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with $1,000 in prizes up for grabs among the pilots.

Noted Stephan in a press release: “Participants will get the opportunity to brush shoulders with three of the best racers in the country: Erick Milewski, Andrew Meyer and Paul Baur from Team Canada, who just recently competed in the World Championships at the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. They will be demonstrating their skills as they compete throughout the indoor series events toward the indoor championships to be held Spring 2017.

“This event will be safe for spectators new to the sport and fans alike. The Cloverdale venue will be providing a concession and beer garden.”

Look for more details about the Winter Indoor Series event at Westcoastdroneracingleague.com.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com