Drone racing is quickly becoming a respected sport, complete with ESPN coverage. Spin Master and DR1 Racing (a drone racing organization) are hoping to give beginners and hobbyists a taste of the action with the new Air Hogs DR1 FPV Race Drone.
Available in Fall 2017 for $99.99, the FPV Race Drone combines the thrill of high-speed drone racing with an eye-in-sky perspective delivered via a virtual reality headset. I got a eyes-on demo at New York Toy Fair 2017 and I'm ready to throw my hat it the ring.
Although the Spin Master rep made the wise decision not to let me fly the drone, he did let me don the VR headset. Compatible with Android and iPhones, the accompanying app gives the wear a first-person view of your flight path (hence the FPV in the name). The rep explained that people that utilize the headset have an easier time adjusting altitude and direction than by relying on line of sight alone.
Since I was wearing a prototype device, it lacked a few of the finer details like a facepad, and it was a little front heavy. However, the headset exhibited little if any light leakage. The view was surprisingly sharp and clear, although I did experience a little fish-eye effect when the drone hit a sharp turn. I wouldn't mind watching drone races via the headset as a spectator, but definitely understand why this would be a preferred visual aid for drone racers.
As for the drone, in the hands of an experienced pilot, it looks to be precise enough to satisfy intermediate pilots, but accessible enough for beginners. The device took turns well and can take a few bumps and bruises as evidenced by an inadvertent crash. Spin Master hasn't shared how much flight time pilots can expect from the FPV, but if the Air Hogs Helix Ion or the Mission Drone are anything to go by, I'm expecting between 10-15 minutes of battery life.
If you prefer to race on terra firma, Air Hogs also has FPS Race Car ($99.99), which like its aerial cousin, will give racers a first-person view via the bundled VR headset.
Still, I'm looking forward to seeing the Air Hogs DR1 FPV Race Drone take its maiden flight onto store shelves later this year.