Take Drone Piloting to the Next Level: Playing Drone Games
May 16, 2018
Flying a drone is a fun activity by itself. However, many enthusiasts have created games using drones. Perhaps the most widely adopted and recognizable of these is drone fpv racing. Of course, innovative minds have found many other ways to play with their drones.
If you want to find new ways to use your drone and challenge your piloting skills, the good news is there are many games that don’t require special equipment. All you need are some friends, your quadcopters, and a space to play in.
Drone racing has become a major feature in the drone flying community. It can range from a few friends seeing who can be fastest around a course to the highly organized and structured events of the Drone Racing League. Regardless of the race type, however, the central goal is to pilot your drone the fastest.
If you and one or more friends own drones, then you have all the equipment you need for a basic drone race. Simply find an open space and figure out a course. For example, you may see who can fly around a tree and back again first.
When planning a drone race, find a location where you can easily keep your drones in your line of sight. Not only is this important for safely flying your drones, it is legally required in the United States and other countries.
While the simplest form of racing uses line-of-sight piloting, more advanced racers prefer to use first-person-view (FPV) piloting. In this setup, each drone is equipped with a forward-facing camera that sends a real-time video feed to the pilot. This feed is displayed either on a small screen or on special FPV goggles.
The main advantage of FPV flying for racing is that the courses can be more complex, and the pilots can fly faster and more aggressively. Using a first-person view, especially when combined with FPV goggles, is a challenging new way to fly drones. It is both a thrilling new perspective on drone flight and a new skill to master. So, don’t expect to be an expert on your first flight.
Keep in mind that drone flight regulations, including in the United States, typically don’t make special accommodations for FPV drones. The drone must remain in the line of sight of the pilot.
Professional drone racers compete in the Drone Racing League. Since 2015, this group has organized races between some of the most accomplished drone pilots in the world. Like all professional sports, competing in the Drone Racing League requires an impressive level of skill. However, even amateurs can enjoy the thrill of these high-speed races as spectators.
A simple game you can play with drones is challenging each other to make difficult landings. For beginners, this can be landing the drone on a designated target, for more advanced pilots, the target can be moving.
Create a dartboard-like target with a series of rings around a bullseye. You can print this out, draw one, or buy a premade target. The goal is to land as close to the center as possible. The outermost ring offers the least points and the bullseye rewards the most.
Try cranking up the challenge by placing the target on a moving object such as a remote-control car. This can require some tricky piloting to properly land.
An alternative version of this uses multiple targets. The goal is to successfully land on the series of targets as quickly as possible.
Another popular and easy-to-start drone game is doing stunt challenges. One of the first activities beyond basic flying that most drone pilots pick up is doing aerial tricks. Stunt challenges are simply an extension of this into a more organized game. There are a few ways to play:
Judged Competition: Have some friends act as judges while two or more competitors show off their best tricks. This is a very simple game but can quickly become quite competitive. The judges assign scores to each routine. The winner is the competitor who impressed the judges the most and earned the highest score.
HORSE: Apply the rules from the classic basketball game to drone stunts. Play one-on-one with a friend and try to copy each other’s best tricks. Whoever can’t perform the trick in a single try gets a letter. Once a pilot has all five letters, the other pilot wins the game.
Timed Challenges: Plan a series of difficult tricks and see who can perform all of them the fastest. It is a combination of trick piloting and racing. This can be fused with the rules of HORSE for a slightly more complex version. Take turns setting challenges and see who is the fastest to successfully perform them, the loser gets a letter.
Stunt piloting is a lot of fun and requires no special equipment. Certain drones are better suited for doing tricks but nearly all UAVs can perform them. The only equipment requirement is that the competitors are on roughly equal ground. Flying a basic ready-to-fly drone against a custom-built stunt drone won’t be a lot of fun.
Some drones, especially custom-built ones, feature a manual flying mode. This turns off certain stabilizing behaviors that the drone automatically performs. Manual mode can enable the pilot to achieve even more impressive stunts. However, piloting in manual mode is significantly more challenging. Get some practice learning the basics of flying in manual mode before attempting any tricks.
Combine the high-speeds of racing with the clever flying of stunt challenges by creating obstacle courses. The objective is simple: achieve the fastest time around the course. You can play this by either timing each competitor or by racing at the same time. The latter is a little more dangerous for your drones but can also be more exciting.
Obstacle courses can be made using special equipment or with existing items. There are plenty of kits for making courses, especially for small drones. Handy drone racers can build custom obstacles to make larger, more complex courses. Trees, rocks, and fences can also make excellent obstacles for creatively-minded pilots.
A popular and inexpensive type of drone obstacle course uses micro drones. These are easy-to-fly and can even be piloted indoors. When flying an indoor obstacle course, it is typically preferable to use a purpose-built kit to avoid damage to other property. As always with drone piloting, ensure there is sufficient space to maneuver without crashing into people or possessions.
Unlock New Possibilities With Battle Drones
Some manufacturers have created special drones that are intended for combat games. There are two primary types of battle drones: dogfighting drones that shoot each other, and drone-fighters that ram each other.
The dogfighting drones use infrared technology to fire at each other. After three direct hits, the drone will descend and turn off until the end of the match. This type of drones enables a wide range of different game types and allows a lot of creativity from the pilots.
Drone-fighters are specially designed to be able to ram each other. They compete in a sport often called Game of Drones which is a mix of drone piloting and combat sports. Rather than shooting infrared beams, pilots try to push their competitors’ drones to the ground. These UAVs feature strong frames and plastic propellers that easily detach. This protects the most important elements of the drones while letting them knock each other out of the air.
The rules of Game of Drones are simple: each player has three points, the player loses a point when his or her drone hits the ground, and the winner is the last player with points left. If a drone is unable to fly, the player has 90 seconds to fix it before being disqualified. Since the official drone kits are robust, fixing one usually means replacing a propeller.
Game of Drones has a formal organization called the Aerial Sports League. This group organizes events that mostly use identically designed drones. The group offers two kits featuring different frame colors, each available for about $400.
Dogfighting Battle Drone Game Types
Using dogfighting battle drones allows a variety of games that otherwise aren’t practical or possible. Here are a few game types to try:
Head-to-Head Dogfighting: This is the simplest version of drone combat. Two players compete to shoot each other’s drone down. Whoever it left in the air wins the round. Since dogfights are usually quick, consider seeing who can be the first to ten wins.
Aerial Wars: Add more friends to your dogfight and compete on teams. The two teams compete to see who can have the last drone in the air. Try playing in two teams of five players. Alternatively, try a more chaotic version with free-for-all combat.
Combat Racing: Make drone racing even more thrilling by using battle drones. Players can foil each other by shooting down drones during the race. When a drone is shot down, it can either be disqualified or given a short penalty while resetting. It is a real challenge to balance racing at high speeds with aerial combat prowess.
Capture the Flag: Increase the complexity of aerial wars by adding an objective. Of course, drones can’t pick up a flag. So, a simple way to make this ruleset work is to have a hoop in each base. To capture a flag, fly your drone through the opposing team’s hoop then return to your base and fly through your team’s hoop.
Attack and Defend: Another form of aerial wars features a base that one team must keep the enemy team out of. Consider having a clear objective such as a hoop for the attackers to fly through.
VIP: Break into two teams and designate one drone as the VIP. The VIP goal is to get from one end of the course to the other. His or her team must protect the VIP at all costs. The opposing team’s goal is to prevent the VIP from reaching the other end of the course.
Trick Missions: Combine stunt challenges with battle drones to create trick missions. One player must perform a predetermined series of stunts while the other player tries to show him or her down.
There are plenty of other ways to play with dogfighting battle drones. Playground games and video games can both serve as inspirations for ways to use these amazing UAVs.
These systems require the drones to communicate with the infrared beams. So, it is typically best to use several drones of the same type.
Part of the fun of drone piloting is learning how they work. Many drone games either use custom-made UAVs or require periodic repairs. Spend some time learning about how drones work and what all the parts do. A little research can help you bounce back quickly from an unexpected crash. Also, remember to keep a few tools including a hex driver and pliers on hand whenever you compete in drone games.
Practice Makes Perfect
Keep in mind that drone games add a level of challenge to drone piloting. This is fun but also increases the risk of damaging your drone. Some users address this by playing games with small, relatively inexpensive microdrones. However, if you are using a more advanced UAV, try doing some practice flying before adding the extra risks from competitors and obstacles. Once you’ve mastered maneuvering your drone, you’ll be ready for races, stunt shows, and more.
Getting Started With Drone Games
Drones have the capabilities for an array of different games. Playing one can be as simple as gathering a few friends with drones. Consider searching for local meetup groups or visiting a nearby hobby store to find others who are interested in the hobby. Participating in local drone game events can be a great way to make new friends, learn more about drone piloting, and have fun.