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Written by Alex Greve
An introduction to fixed-wing FPV racing
How-to
As seen in the April 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.


With the advent of FPV technology, it was only a matter of time before groups of people started getting together to race their aircraft around a racetrack. Although FPV fixed-wing racing has been around since 2012, the popularity of quadcopter racing has brought the spotlight onto fixed-wing racers.

The first major fixed-wing FPV race was held at the 2016 National Drone Racing Championships in New York City as part of a quadcopter event. Although many people feel that the event had its challenges for many reasons, it was a major success for fixed-wing racers. Spectators lined the fences and fields to see the flying wings scream across the racetrack at speeds exceeding 100 mph, dodging through the obstacle course. ESPN covered the event, focusing mainly on a pilot known as “Bond” (Jeremiah Guelzo), with a live feed from the onboard camera on his Anubis race wing.




The flightline is placed specifically for safety, as well as to maintain good video signals throughout.


After the event, it was apparent that wing racing needed its own organization that focused on fixed-wing FPV. A group of four friends—Merrill Ross, Tom McCullough, Ryan O’Connor, and Alex Greve—formed the nonprofit FPV Wing Racing Association (FPVWRA).

The purpose of the organization is simple: promote and grow the sport of fixed-wing FPV racing by focusing on the pilots and the pilot experience. The FPVWRA has developed new standards for track layout, airplane types, and site development, as well as safety rules to ensure that anyone wanting to host wing races has all of the tools needed to have a successful and fun event.

Different from traditional model flying is the establishment of a flight boundary instead of a flightline. FPV racetracks often take up a large amount of space, and placing pilots near the track along a line limits the track layout because aircraft flying down a flightline in a competitive manner at 100-plus mph can be unsafe.




With the rise in popularity of FPV, FPV wing racing is sure to gain more recognition in 2018.


For many modelers, this boundary location is unusually far away from the track. Although it initially seems strange, this distance improves the clarity of the video signal, while also increasing the safety of the people involved. In general, the flight boundary is 1 foot back from the track for every 4 feet. The track is deep to keep video signals from jamming out other pilots when they approach the nearest part of the track.

It has been demonstrated that using this boundary allows more pilots to fly at once. Although quadcopter racing typically only allows six people to race at one time, the establishment of this boundary has allowed as many as 18 pilots to race at once.

The FPVWRA has four main classes of racing: Spec, Sport, Battle, and Unlimited. Each of these has a different focus.

Spec: This is by far the most popular class and the easiest one in which to get started. This class was founded as a wing-racing community effort, where the pilots got together and discussed how to make a racing class where all of the airplanes were similarly competitive and fun to fly and race. Alex Greve headed up the project and collected the community input and designed the FPVWRA Spec Wing category.




Spec Wings is a great class for new pilots to get started in because each pilot is required to run the same setup.


This is an open-source foam airplane in which all pilots use the same inexpensive parts and components. It is a simple 36-inch wingspan, fully symmetrical flying wing that uses a common 2,200 three-cell LiPo battery pack (from any manufacturer) a Cobra 2210/2200 Kv motor, and an APC 6 x 4 propeller.

The result is an easy-to-build, highly durable race wing. Because the airplanes are competitively the same, the focus is on the pilot’s ability to navigate the track and results in close finishes. Often the first- and third-place finishers are separated by less than 2 seconds.




It helps to have a teammate assist in hand launching.


Sport: This class was founded from the discussions of airplane manufacturers who were preparing for the 2016 National Drone Racing Championships. It focuses on electric flying wing aircraft with a wingspan between 33.5 and 43.5 inches. In this class, the aircraft often reach speeds of 120 mph.

Battle: A new class for 2018, this class mixes laser tag with wing racing. For most people, the instant they see another aircraft in their screen they immediately think of World War II aerial combat. In wing racing, you are guaranteed to see several wings directly in front of your aircraft.




Trim schemes are a perfect way for pilots to add some personality to their wings.


Battle class allows you to do what you always wanted to do: shoot them down. Many pilots compare this to a real-life “Mario Kart.” Like the Spec class, all of the airplanes are similarly competitive, but each is equipped with a laser tag combat system. When hit, the aircraft weapon is disabled and the motor power is reduced for a short period of time. The focus of this class is as much about shooting your fellow pilots out of your way as it is racing.




FPV wing tracks are built on larger venues to support speeds of more than 100 mph.


Unlimited: This class is a “run what you brought” type of class. Although the weight and size of the aircraft are limited for safety reasons, the rest is the pilot’s choice.

The FPVWRA also has five wing trial courses in which racers can be ranked worldwide. These can be set up in an average soccer field and use inexpensive parts that can be found at a local hardware store. A pilot simply records his or her three fastest consecutive laps on the course and submits the results to the FPVWRA for review and ranking.




Wing racing is as exciting for spectators as it is for the pilots.


For more information about FPV wing racing, as well as track designs and pilot rankings, visit the FPVWRA website.

—Alex Greve
videoaerial@gmail.com


Sources:

FPVWRA
www.fpvwra.net






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