Australia’s Booming Underground Drone Racing League


In fringe suburbs of Australian cities there’s a booming underground scene of aerial drone racing, and the unusual sport is gaining traction and popularity. A company called QAROP has recently introduced the first legal league and started organizing meet-ups and race days for the growing number of enthusiasts. 

People who participate love the idea of being in a virtual pilot’s seat for all of the excitement and thrills of racing, but without the risk of injury. And smaller quadcopters have made joining in the fun easier and cheaper.

One issue hindering the number of flyers and locations for events is the nation’s aviation laws, since Australia limits frequencies allowing no more than four drones to be in the air at one time. Currently the law also prevents users from flying their drones higher than 400 feet, flying over crowded areas, flying them at night or within 30 meters of people. It also restricts outdoor flying unless it is within a model flying club.

So the drone racing community has taken their sport underground: into warehouses and similar spaces while they lobby to have commercial drone laws reviewed and changed. QAROP also runs a drone-racing league in New Zealand where the laws governing drones are more lenient.

It only costs a few hundred dollars to get started, but enthusiasts who are serious about the sport might spend upwards of $2,000 on a single drone. Many of these devices are blinged-out with LED lights and accessories.

Flying a drone requires a learning curve to get it right, and participants have their hands in everything from soldering to basic computer programming, video transmission, aerodynamic considerations and piloting skills. The sport is attracting everyone from commercially licensed drone pilots to farmers and ranchers, students, professionals, kids and IT workers.

The drones zoom around these urban courses: warehouses, go-cart tracks, or even farms at speeds up to 60 mph, and a normal meet includes about five hours of practice to become familiar with the track prior to a one-hour race.

Participants say that it’s addicting. They usually start out with a single drone and as they become more adept at racing, their urge is to buy more items and upgrade the radios, goggles, battery chargers and other accessories plus to have multiple drones to compete with on race days.

Who knows? Maybe you can create a new drone racing league in your neighborhood.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons