Tiny, mighty and fast: Micro-drones ready to race at Air Force Museum

Micro-drones are tiny, powerful and fast.

Perhaps a tad too fast for the uninitiated, said Kele Stanley, a micro-drone pilot and organizer of the micro-drone race to be held this weekend at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The drones in the spotlight this weekend can hit top speeds of 40 to 45 mph, Stanley said. Pilots are monitoring their craft through special goggles.

“If you’re a newer pilot, it’s definitely a different out-of-body experience,” he said. “It puts you in the driver’s seat. It’s really pretty intuitive once you figure out the controls and how it all works.”

“We’ll be battling it out to see who’s the fastest,” he added.

The races Friday to Sunday will be the fourth such event held at the museum in recent years.

Expect fun, Stanley and others said in a preview Thursday. Drone pilots will maneuver drones over, under, around and through a C-124 Globemaster II cargo plane in a “pretzel-style” race circuit.

Spectators may watch the race along the course in the museum’s second building. If you can’t quite visually catch the tiny drones — small enough to fit in the palm of your hand — don’t fret. Footage will be displayed on a big screen. You can also watch a live broadcast on the Cincinnati Quad Racers YouTube channel, https://youtube.com/c/CincinnatiQuadRacers.

Registered pilots will start practicing at 9 a.m. daily and then race in a series of practices and qualifying rounds, the museum has said.

“This year, we sold out tickets in 20 minutes,” Stanley said.

Also from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, visitors will also be able to experience flying a drone with computer-based simulators from Sinclair Community College Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program and the museum’s Education Division. Visitors can then fly a real drone in the fourth building.

The museum noted that pilots in this race have pre-registered to participate and registration has closed.

The flying of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) on museum grounds is prohibited and is “immediately reported to security forces,” the museum also warned. This includes drones and model remote control aircraft.

The museum’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. The entrance to museum grounds is at gate 28B off Springfield Street in Riverside.

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