February 23, 2017
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NOW: 37°
HI 45 / LO 34

Drone racing to be held at Wilmot High School


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BY JILL TATGE-ROZELL
jrozell@kenoshanews.com


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WILMOT — A different kind of sport will take the field at Wilmot Union High School Sunday, or its airspace anyway.

Spectators will be able to watch as pilots navigate drones through a race course at Frank Bucci Field.

"It is an absolute blast to see these things whipping around at 60- to 70-mph," organizer Andrew Sutliff, with Team RamQuad, said.

Sutliff estimated between 20 and 30 pilots from Madison to Chicago will enter their drones in the event — being held for the enjoyment of drone enthusiasts and the entertainment of the public. Admission for spectators is free. Race entryies are $15.

Originally the event was scheduled to take place inside the fieldhouse, according to Paige Thelen, Wilmot High School community outreach coordinator. However, unseasonably warm weather has presented an opportunity to move outdoors.

"The plan right now is to hold the event outside on the football field," Thelen said. "We're hoping the weather cooperates."

Pilots wear special goggles that give them a drone's-eye view and make it appear as though they are playing a virtual-reality game. The drones, with propellers no longer than 5 inches each, are navigated through a series of five-foot-by-five-foot gates.

"The quads are never more than 30- to 40-feet off the ground," Sutliff said, adding the height of the gates requires the drones to stay low to the ground.

Pilots spend hours custom building their drones and fitting them with onboard cameras.

Spectators will not only be able to watch the drones race through the course, but also will be able to see the pilot's viewpoints at a viewing station.

It is not a sanctioned event as part of a worldwide competition circuit — though drone racing leagues have formed worldwide and hold tournaments at which pilots compete for points at large events.

Thelen said she will be surveying those in attendance about the idea of offering community education classes about drone building, operation and/or racing.

"We are hoping to offer some classes," Thelen said. "I want to get a feel for what people are interested in learning about drones."

Those who cannot attend the event, but are interested in the possibility of taking a class can contact Thelen at (262) 862-2351, ext. 318.


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