When you give a group of men a new piece of technology, sooner or later they are going to race with it. That competitive mindset is something uniquely human, and it luckily also ensures us that rapid technological progress can be made. We are always looking for new frontiers.  That is why Sep Berghmans founded Drone Racing Belgium in 2015, in order to organize FPV (First Person View) drone races. “Just as in the automotive industry, we find that racing requires a lot of current technology: everyone wants to go faster, be more agile, and above all: be the best. Racing is the perfect way to develop new technologies and test them before they find their way into the mainstream industry. We have seen the technological capabilities of drones advance double fold in just two years.”

Quote Sep Berghmans

“Racing is the perfect way to develop and test new technologies before they find their way into the mainstream industry.”

– Sep Berghmans – President Drone Racing Belgium

Berghmans is also an entrepreneur and has his own business as a staging set designer. This allows him to develop spectacular tracks for drone racing. “As a teenager I have always been fascinated by everything electronics or computer related,” he says. “So it was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon drones.”

Drone Racing Belgium organizes drone races like DronePortal, late April in Belgium. The organization is also focused on building the ideal race drone. “You can’t race with an expensive drone. Eventually, it crashes and then you’re just wasting money,” says Berghmans. That’s why we build our own inexpensive drones. We are constantly looking for the difficult balance between performance, weight and cost. FPV racing is usually very hard and collisions and crashes are inevitable.”

Belgian expertise

Ex-classmates of Berghmans put a real drone racing simulator together based on a movie they saw on the internet. It didn’t go unnoticed and the companies behind the online movie, Airgonay and Fatshark, provided the necessary funding to design a game based on the Belgian simulator. Because of this, Berghmans and his ex-classmates reconnected and in 2015 Drone Racing Belgium was born.

“Our mission is both to organize qualitative drone races and also to promote the sport to a broad audience,” says Sep Berghmans. “The biggest challenge in organizing a drone racing event is finding the right balance between the pilot’s comfort and the public’s enjoyment. There has to be sufficient action to keep it interesting for the spectators, but the pilots should also be given sufficient opportunity to celebrate their passion, flying, without too many restrictions.”

Quote Sep Berghmans

“The biggest challenge in organizing a drone racing event is finding the right balance between the pilot’s comfort and the public’s enjoyment.”

– Sep Berghmans – President Drone Racing Belgium

“We usually race with up to four drones,” Berghmans says. “That’s manageable. The technology is constantly evolving, making more complex races possible, but we are trying to grow at a normal rate. It has to remain ‘fun’ for all parties.

Video is of great importance. “During every race a VJ edits and streams images almost in real time and forward them to the public. For now we do not have a live stream, but soon we will. Also we could offer added value through quality live commentary, but we don’t have the budget to do this at the moment.”

Aloha: looking for race sponsors

Drone Racing Belgium has built an impressive track record in just a few years. They organized the Belgian qualifications for the World Championship in Hawaii in 2016. Berghmans: “At European and global level, the drone racing community is still very fragmented. This is normal for such a new sport, everyone wants to claim a piece. As time progresses, more professionalization will surface. Right now, this fragmentation makes it difficult to attract the right sponsors, but as we grow step by step, we can flexibly adapt our scale to the rate at which the sport is growing. ”

 

Quote Sep Berghmans

“The dream is to develop the sport professionally. To be a drone racer is not as unattainable as you might think.”

– Sep Berghmans – President Drone Racing Belgium

Currently Drone Racing Belgium is in full preparation of their annual event that takes place at DronePort in Sint-Truiden: DronePortal. “We may be the first worldwide who have built a full race course with DMX lamps, which will provide spectacular lighting effects,” says Berghmans, enthusiastic about this innovation.

“The online platform that we’ve developed for the races is completely tailored to our needs. We’ve had some international interest for this platform recently. Apparently, despite several attempts, it’s not so easy to copy our platform with the same level of usability. There are currently 380 active profiles on our network. We clean this up regularly to keep everything as high quality as possible. Nobody benefits from a dead community.”

Military applications

“The dream is to develop the sport professionally. To be a drone racer is not as unattainable as you might think. Some individual pilots are sponsored by companies, thus making them pros. It is a sport that is accessible enough for everyone and still offers enough challenge and depth for the real enthusiasts. Flying a drone really fast requires a lot of concentration. A technical background to build the drone itself, also comes in handy. The top pilots in the drone racing world are real aces. Drone racing also has a military application: FPV pilots train on how to perform rapid reconnaissance missions,” concludes Sep Berghmans.

DronePortal: an opportunity to get to know FPV Racing? Drone Racing Belgium is aiming for around 1000 visitors over two days. The emphasis Saturday is on the pilots while Sunday is aimed primarily at the general public. But everyone is welcome on both days! The event is also suitable for families (on Sunday). All information and registration procedures can be found here: https://www.droneracingbelgium.be/events.

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