Print this articlePrint this article


Written by Matt Ruddick
A festival for FPV Freestyle
Event coverage
As seen in the February 2019 issue of
Model Aviation.



Bonus Video


The first time I spoke with Rotor Riot founder Chad Kapper about the Rotor Riot Rampage, he said that he wanted to have an event that was community focused and celebrated the diversity among pilots. He lightheartedly called it the “Burning Man of FPV.” Artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs alike were all invited to take part in an event that was unlike any other in the RC community.

Speaking with Rotor Riot founding pilot Tommy Tibajia, he said, “I’m really glad we had this event, because we wanted to show that this camaraderie exists, and I think this is one of the few hobbies out there like that.” I knew he had a great point, but I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I traveled to Barnwell, South Carolina, for the October 6-7, 2018, event. I only knew it would be something special.



Multipath Mayhem gave pilots the opportunity to fly through countless gaps and dive a 100-foot tall smokestack.


Approximately 200 registered pilots and another 100 paid spectators made the trek to the small town of Barnwell and turned the Government Training Institute facility into a giant FPV playground for two full days. Nearly 350 acres were used to construct four distinctly different areas for pilots to fly in and try to impress onlookers with their skills. Just like typical drone racing events, each area had an organized flightline with rules dictating video transmitting power and channels; however that was where most of the similarities would end.

My first stop at the Rotor Riot Rampage was an area called Multipath Mayhem. Perched atop a hill in the center of the facility, the flightline for this area attracted pilots who wanted to weave in and out of steel rails and pipes, as well as dive the giant smokestack that towered over the event. It wasn’t without some risk as its name was derived from the fact that the immense amount of metal could result in a less-than-optimal video signal back to the flightline. It was a true steel jungle at Multipath Mayhem, which was just the way that those pilots liked it.



Mike “FrostyFPV” Lanze congratulates a fellow pilot after a flight.


One of the attractions to this area was a contest being sponsored by frame manufacturer Armattan. Three small gaps were chosen for pilots to take a shot at winning Armattan gear and at becoming a sponsored Armattan pilot. Four times each day, pilots made their attempts to win, attracting many to send their quadcopters into the sky in hopes of landing the trick of the event. In the end, pilots David Hinds and Michael Sweeting were offered Armattan sponsorships thanks to the challenge.

The next area I stopped by was called Treepocolypse. As you might gather, this area was like a park you could find down the street from your own neighborhood. Trees of all sizes were scattered throughout, giving pilots many elevation changes and options for tight-proximity flying. Open flying was the common activity at Treepocolypse, with the occasional game of “Kwad” (similar to a game of “Horse” in basketball) breaking out from time to time.



Artists displayed their FPV-related pieces in the vendor area.


Container Chaos was made up of four shipping containers stacked on top of each other. Typically used to teach rappelling, this tower was perfect for smaller 2- and 3-inch drones that could easily maneuver in and out of the doors and windows built into the sides. Being the smallest area at the facility, it was also mainly used for general open flying and games of “Kwad.”

The Riot Range was an area that attracted a lot of attention because it was not only the largest open area to fly in, but was also the location of the Rampage Throwdown Freestyle Competition. Run by renowned pilot Zoe Stumbaugh, this friendly contest had 16 pilots competing against each other to see who could put on the best 90-second Freestyle run around a field filled with custom-built obstacles put together by event organizers.



Rotor Riot President Drew Camden watches a pilot’s feed during the Throwdown competition.


They were judged on style, difficulty, and the use of a course by a set of celebrity judges. Rotor Riot president, Drew Camden, Tyler Brennan of RaceDayQuads, and Armattan team pilot Robert Pringle scored each run until they were left with the sole winner and Rampage Throwdown champion, Corey “CricketFPV” Tapp.

“It feels amazing. I’m ecstatic!” Corey told me about his performance at the Throwdown. However, the medallion around his neck wasn’t what was important this weekend. “Hanging out with the people you see online, they’re all here. Flying packs, hanging out by the campfire at night, and just having a great time. That’s what this is all about. If you couldn’t be here this year, start looking forward to the next one because you won’t want to miss it.”



Zoe Stumbaugh goes over the contest rules with judges and competitors.


On the subject of the people you only see flying online, scheduled throughout the weekend were professional pilot exhibitions. Pilots such as Kevin Dougherty, Drew Camden, Jeff Orta, and others put on demonstrations for attendees to see the top fliers in action first-hand. They answered questions and showed off some of their best tricks while everyone followed along in their goggles, oohing and aahing with every trick attempted.

Although it might have been the focus, it wasn’t all about flying at Rampage. For those looking for a break from the hot South Carolina sun, a couple of indoor areas featured different activities for pilots to enjoy.



The Riot Range featured custom-built obstacles that were used for the Rampage Throwdown Freestyle contest.


Mini Kwad Camp was set up throughout the weekend, where anybody could walk in and repair his or her gear with the help of experts such as Joshua Bardwell, Tommy, and others. Additionally, a second indoor location was used for a mini drone film festival of sorts and Q&A panels with various Rotor Riot personalities. Topics included everything from how to get started to discussions regarding FAA regulations. Nothing was off limits in these sessions, and it was a great way to get personal insights to the community’s hottest topics from its top personalities.



Frank Sarfino makes repairs to one of his quadcopters.


Tommy continued, “Because this event also draws people who might not be into it, I feel like it can be a channel to learn more about it and see what it’s all about.” I certainly saw that in action. I met one family from the nearby town of Aiken who had seen ESPN’s Drone Racing League and decided to come see this event in person to learn more about it.



Corey “CricketFPV” Tapp following one of his Rampage Throwdown flights.


In speaking with them, they were amazed at the speed, accuracy, and skill displayed by the pilots. They were even handed a set of FPV goggles to watch through during the Rampage Throwdown so that they could experience what FPV was like. They told me that they had a newfound appreciation for what these pilots could do and were glad to see this event being held in their area.



Q&A sessions were held with Rotor Riot pilots and personalities throughout the weekend.


At the end of the weekend, it was easy to see why the Rotor Riot Rampage was a success. Although traditional modelers are familiar with fun-fly-style events, drone pilots are typically only holding racing events where the adrenaline and competition can drown out any relaxing atmosphere that might exist. That wasn’t the case at Rampage. With the main focus being on the community and not the competition, the mood was light and relaxed—almost serene. Smiles and laughter were as common as propellers, and when the sun went down on Sunday, talk had already turned to what a Rampage 2 would look like in 2019.



Rampage organizers pose for a group photo at the conclusion of the event.


One thing is certain: After the experience that the pilots had at the inaugural 2018 event, it will be easy to imagine how successful this gathering could be in the years to come.

-Matt Ruddick
mattr@modelaircraft.org




Add new comment