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History Preserved
As seen in the August 2017 issue of
Model Aviation.

At first, FPV races were flown by groups of friends who wanted to have fun. They held informal competitions and vied for the title of “best.” Rules quickly emerged, however, as the races became more formal.

During the Data X conference in May 2015, Scot Refsland organized the first AMA-sanctioned FPV race. The race, which took place on Santa Barbara (California) High School’s football field, drew fewer than 25 pilots, but it was a heated competition.

The race’s winner, Zoe Stumbaugh, commented, “Racing was frantic—after the first heat, it was a race to keep machines flying. After a race, it was a rush to do maintenance while other people had their heats. There were three groups of us rotating out for racing. Once the races started, it was a mad dash and things turned into a blur.”

The final heat came down to three competitors: Stephen, Rotor Guru, and Zoe. Stephen crashed, leaving just Zoe and Rotor Guru. Zoe maintained the lead throughout the heat, although Rotor Guru closed in at one point before Zoe laid on more speed to cross the finish line.

Zoe Stumbaugh posing with the Rat at the inaugural AMA-sanctioned FPV race in May 2015. Photo provided by Stumbaugh.

Zoe was flying a heavily modified version of a 290mm Blackout Spider Hexacopter design that she named Rat. Built from 3mm carbon fiber, it featured six motors and ESCs that output nearly 100 amps at full throttle—capable of propelling the aircraft faster than 70 mph.

The Rat was the largest multirotor entered, which meant that Zoe had to be extra cautious when flying the course. Her win came down to not only the speed of the aircraft, but her ability to keep it in tight, maintain precise control through the obstacles, and master the trick of getting speed through the slalom by using bursts of directed thrust.

Shortly after the 2015 race, Zoe donated the Rat, her Turnigy 9xR Pro transmitter, and Boscam FPV goggles to the National Model Aviation Museum with the added comment of, “Keep flying!” More information on the May 2015 FPV race and the Rat can be found on the museum’s blog.

Scot incorporated what he learned while planning the Data X conference drone race and used it to plan the first US Drone Nationals at the California State Fair in July 2015. More on that next month!

—National Model Aviation Museum staff

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