For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, the IDRA is bringing the world of professional drone racing into the mainstream this summer (August 5-7 to be precise) with the 2016 National Drone Racing Championships on Governor’s Island in NYC, which you’ll be able to watch live on ESPN.
One guy who won’t be watching the event on ESPN is Shaun Taylor, but only because he’ll be there racing and probably winning. Shaun has got some serious skill with the joysticks and he was nice enough to sit down with us for a SomeDrones.com podcast and give us an FPV into the world of professional drone racing.
Here’s the thing about Shaun, he’s not just a badass on the course, he’s a full-time badass. The dude had to reschedule one of our earlier attempts at an interview because he was out fighting wildfires in New Mexico! I’m not sure if drone groupies exist yet, but as the #3 ranked drone pilot in the nation (#6 in the world) who also happens to fight wildfires with his bare hands and no shirt, I think Shaun’s got first dibs on them.
But Shaun would be the first to tell you that he doesn’t care about rankings (he was legitimately surprised when we told him what rank he currently held). It’s all about fun for him and whatever competitive force drives him, it stays on the course. He doesn’t fly for rankings of past wins and losses; he flies for the thrill of victory in the moment.
Shaun started flying in 2014, if you can believe it. A friend of his had been messing around with a quadcopter and Shaun wanted to give it a try. By his own admission he was “terrible” when he started out, but his competitive nature forced him to practice and get better until he could beat his friend on a homemade course. By this point Shaun was hooked and he decided to take things to the next level.
He started racing with a ZMR 250, but before long he required something a little more suited to his custom racing style. That’s when Shaun and his racing partner, Sean Sanford decided to start building their own drones. So far they’ve come up with some pretty cool designs which you can check out at DarkSideQuads.com, but their penultimate creation came in the form of a tiny little X-frame quadcopter they like to call, The Cricket.
The Cricket is what Shaun races with today. Honestly, it’s not much to look at, but looks isn’t what the two drone racer/designer/builders were going for. It’s stripped down to the bare bones for unmatched speed and Shaun prefers the X-frame design over the H-frame for increased maneuverability.
The world of professional drone racing may still be in its infancy, but according to Shaun it has nowhere to go but up. The IDRA Drone Nationals are going to be a huge step in the right direction for the popularity of the sport and for drones in general. Hopefully events like this will create a whole new generation of professional drone racers and more importantly, drone racing fans. Be sure to check out the IDRA site for a list of upcoming races and events, Shaun's site for a look at his custom built drones, his YouTube page to see those drones in action, and get even more info on Shaun and the world of professional drone racing by listening to the SomeDrones.com podcast.