irish-drone-nationals-2016-review-of-irelands-top-fpv-drone-racing-eventIrish Drone Nationals 2016, the official event of Ireland’s FPV Drone Racing National Championship. Read our review of 2 great days!


Ireland’s finest drone racers came together on the 26th to 28th of August to compete in the 2nd Annual Irish Drone Nationals for the illustrious title of ‘IDN Champion‘ 2016.

The event may be over now but was so successfully run by Leinster FPV  that surely there will be more to come!

40 pilots competed in Ireland’s official FPV Drone Racing National Championship: 38 from Northern/Southern Ireland and 2 international professional flyers, Malte Lynen, otherwise known as XY.FPV from Germany and Kent Diderksen from Denmark.

2016 Irish Drone Nationals

Who made it happen?

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The Organisers.

 

You can either skip to your favorite part using these quick links or grab a coffee, get comfortable and commence scrolling!

The Highlights

  1. Celebrity FPV Pilots
  2. Who Won?
  3. The Plan
  4. Executing The Plan
  5. The Crew
  6. The Pilots
  7. Sunset on Friday Evening

Saturday at the Irish Drone Nationals

Sunday at the Irish Drone Nationals

Irish Drone Nationals Elements


Celebrity FPV Pilots

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Kent

 

Kent is a team pilot for the Immersionrc sponsored team and a member of the X Blades team.

He has been flying since 2013 and is currently ranked 10th in the world. To watch him fly is a treat!

His style is to fly slightly banked and his yellow quads are easy to follow around the track.

He is fast and consistent and incredibly calm! Maybe it’s the beard, who knows!

 

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XY.FPV

XY.FPV is sponsored by ShenDrones, Multirotorparts and Tattu Lipo.

He is passionate about FPV and FPV racing. He is also a very calm and smooth flyer.

He was incredibly positive about flying in the Irish Drone Nationals and thought the track was amazing and very well laid out.

He was delighted with his 2nd place podium and his qualification for the ERSA European Cup in Ibiza!

 

 


Who won?

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And the winner is…

 

Kent won the Irish Drone Championship, with XY.FPV a close 2nd followed by Liam Noble from Northern Ireland. Rounding out the top six were Dave Macken, Cahal Dallett and Ivan Mendez.

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Irish Air Corp Mechanics made the awesome Irish Drone Nationals Perpetual Trophy

The Irish Air Corp mechanics made a beautiful trophy from recycled spare aviation parts. A decision was made by Leinster FPV to have the trophy remain in Ireland at Aerial Media HQ, and have the name of the winning pilot engraved on it each year. So Kent will be immortalised in metal!

Each of the six winners came away with some swag; the top three leaving with a beautifully crafted glass trophy and the remaining three receiving a 3-d printed medal with the Irish Drone Nationals logo.


Irish Drone Nationals – The Plan

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Who’s the Boss? : Keith, Dave, Neil, Cahal, Dan, Gearóid, Jaak and Gavin Photo: ® Slawomir Slawek Drone Pilot for Aerial Media Ltd

 

Leinster FPV took over the running of the Irish Drone Nationals earlier this year. The core group of Jaak, Gavin, Dave, Dan, Keith, Neil, Cahal and Gearóid undertook a monumental task. They had three primary goals.

      1. Successfully run a timed Irish Drone Nationals event
      2. Send a team of six to the European Cup in Ibiza in October
      3. Send a team to the Drone Worlds in Hawaii.

Well, they can mark the first goal as over-achieved as they put on an awe-inspiring Irish Drone Nationals!

As for the second goal, they now have qualified flyers! They just need sponsorship and funding. Ditto for the third goal. Anyone interested in sponsoring or funding the team going to the European Cup in Ibiza, please contact Jaak or head over to the Irish Drone Nationals Facebook Page and drop the guys a message.

Leinster FPV started planning the second Irish Drone Nationals to be an outdoor weekend event after running a single day event in 2015. The latter wasn’t a timed event, so Irish flyers didn’t get the opportunity to participate in larger competitions last year. So, the plan for this year was to purchase an infrared timing system and find a venue with access to safety equipment and power.

Mondello Park fit the bill! It is known as the home of speed in Ireland and while the IDN champion was being crowned last Sunday, motorbikes ripped up the adjacent track.

Once Mondello agreed to be the venue, the IDN looked for sponsorship to run the event professionally. The track design had to comply with ERSA guidelines in order to be official and this meant purchasing an IR race timer system.

Once sponsorship was secured, the I-Lap IR race timer system and overall prizes were purchased and the games began. Aerial Media were instrumental in bringing Kent to fly in Ireland. Kent and XY.FPV were wonderfully encouraging to the local pilots giving them tips and technique lessons. They may have learned too well…so watch out next year guys!


Irish Drone Nationals – Executing the Plan

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Part of setup on Friday evening was ensuring the steel fencing would not interfere with the quadcopter when they were flying. Six of the pilots go out to place their quads for flying.

 

Jaak is the only sponsored Irish Drone Pilot. He is sponsored by Fast Lad Performance, Gemfanhobby, T-Motor and Dinogy Lipos – but he still works for a living as do the rest of the Irish Guys! They all have jobs which couldn’t be abandoned in the lead up to the Nationals.

This meant that most of the course prep took place on Friday when volunteers gathered at Mondello to mow the grass, set up the track, put up safety barriers, get the WC’s installed, set-up the pilot platform for flying, install the judging area, set out the flags, set up gazebos in case of rain (turned out they kept spectators, pilots, and crew from being roasted due to unexpected sunshine!) and to setup race control, and registration, all for launch on Saturday. But the camaraderie was magnificent, highlighting how much the participants just love this sport!

 

George and Michael traveled from Cork and Limerick respectively and once they arrived immediately pitched in, as did another group who traveled from the North of Ireland.


The Crew

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View from Race Control of some of the crew manning the judging stations

 

Many people who just came to help out but weren’t participating as pilots, became the official ‘Crew’ dressed in orange t-shirts. Some were cajoled into helping as a favour……hmm Michelle, Philip, Kevin and Chris. Great job setting up, manning the gates and helping to restore the site back into a luscious green field!

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Evan from Crew helping a pilot out with a problem

 

The majority of volunteers were also FPV drone flyers. They weren’t interested in competing but wanted to be involved. Some of them love the engineering side of FPV. They like to build the quads. Others like to fly free-style. Some were new to the sport and wanted to meet up with more confident flyers.

Guys like Frank, Evan and Davy all became central to the smooth running of race control. By Saturday morning, the crew became a unit, with Davy parcelling out jobs, schedules and instructions.

The Pilots

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Irish Drone Nationals Pilots, Core and Crew

 

Pilots came from all over the island of Ireland to compete in the Irish Drone Nationals.

One Irish pilot only heard about the event 2 days before it began. Kent and XY.FPV travelled from Denmark and Germany. Many of the pilots heard about the event through one of three Facebook Groups: FPV.IRELANDLeinsterFPV or FPV Quadcopter – Multirotor Racing N.Ireland or they happened upon the Irish Drone Nationals Facebook page.

The pilots who took part in the Irish Drone Nationals Championship were as follows George Ryan, David Macken, Andrejs Lukins, Gavin Phelan, Michael O’ Keeffe, Brian Quinn, Hugo Burns, Ben-Anthony Donnelly, Marcin Badurek, Nathan McCormack, XY.FPV, Gavin Costello, Miroslaw Wycka, Gary Loughnane, Neil Smith, Gareth Somers, Jonathan Byrne, Sylvester Lenihan, Brendan Lacey, Alan Bray, Duncan McNab, Liam Noble, Padraic Lavin, Kevin Cowley, Ivan Mendez, Ionut Petrescu, Cahal Dallett, Ronan Lough, John Savage, William Mills, Keith Tracey, Fernando Morais, Brian Mac Donnell, Jaak Pieterse, Kent Dideriksen, Slawomir Zielinski, Marcin Hoffmann, Daniel Mc Phillips and  Michael Mahon.

If you hear of anyone interested in FPV, encourage them to join a club close to home so they can attend flying meetups.

Sunset on Friday Evening

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The sunset on Friday evening was epic but it didn’t halt the work!

 

The sunset on Friday evening was epic but it didn’t halt the work!

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Someone should tell Michael’s wife that he knows his way around a brush!

 


Saturday at the Irish Drone Nationals

Crew Briefing

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Crew Briefing

 

Each morning the crew were given a briefing to sort out jobs, problems etc.


Pilot Briefing

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Pilot Briefing

Once the crew had their jobs, Jaak held the first Pilot Briefing of the weekend.

These were held throughout the weekend to iron out any problems. The layout of the track was checked the evening prior to the race. Once the first pilot briefing was over, the pilots walked the track and it was great to see how positively it was received.


Timed Trials for Placement

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Saturday’s timed trial heats included up to eight pilots

 

Saturday qualifying heats were held between 11.00 and 18.00 and pilots were ranked and placed in qualifying knock-out rounds for the Sunday Morning. The Irish Micro FPV ChampionshipTiny Whoop’ competition was held after the qualifying heats.

Kent and XY.FPV both being professional flyers, automatically qualified for the final based on consistently flying the circuit sub 20 seconds.

In such a fast-paced sport, elation and heartbreak are close companions for many flyers who qualify in one round only to crash and burn in the next. Hero to zero in seconds after months of anticipation.


Irish Micro FPV Championship

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Micro FPV Drone

 

This was held on Saturday evening when everyone had a bit of time to wind down. The pilots who took part in the Micro FPV championship were as follows:

Miroslaw Wycka, Padraic Lavin, Cahal Dallett, Ronan Lough, William Mills, Jaak Pieterse, Marcin Hoffmann, Nathan McMormac and Kieth Tracey.

Nathan won the ‘tiny whoop competition’ with a fly through, in the dark, up and over Race Control!


Sunday at the Irish Drone Nationals

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Sunday morning’s pilot briefing was attended by both pilots and crew as many of them were acting as judges for the competition.

 

Crew briefing on Sunday was again followed by a pilot briefing on the run of the day’s races. Pilots were ranked one to forty, but only 28 flyers actually had consistent times.

The top two slots were taken by Kent and XY.FPV followed closely by Cahal, Ivan, Liam, John Petresco, Jaak, Ben Anthony, Gavin Costello with Dave filling out the top ten.

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Keith Tracy acted as MC for the Irish Drone Nationals.

 

Anyone who didn’t get 3 x full timed laps in before crashing out got to participate in the first heats on Sunday Morning.

Keith was one of those who attempted to climb the groupings on Sunday morning but lost out to Gary, and so it continued with those further down the timings competing in the knockout stages.


3D Heli Demos

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George and his 3 Bladed Electric Goblin Helicopter

 

During a break in Sunday’s schedule, George Ryan gave a demonstration of 3D Helicopters, the only of its kind currently in Ireland.

It was exhilarating to watch George in action. The way he can manoeuvre those helicopters is jaw-dropping! George demonstrated a 2 bladed nitro-fuelled Goblin and a 3 bladed electric Goblin.

George will be taking part in the Irish Helicopter Nationals on 10/11 September in Carron Model Flying Club.


Semi-finals

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IDN 2016 Semi-final winners Liam & Dave – Photo: ® Slawomir Slawek, Drone Pilot for Aerial Media Ltd

 

It wasn’t long before we got to the semi-finals with the two winners, Dave Macken and Liam Noble, joining Kent and XY.FPV in the final.

The semis were followed by the Freestyle FPV Race Competition.


Freestyle FPV Race Competition

 

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The three judges of Freestyle view each pilot’s flight through their own FPV goggles

 

The Freestyle FPV Race was held between the semi-finals and the final of the Irish Drone Nationals 2016.

Any of the pilots could take part in this race but some, like Jaak, particularly love Freestyle Flying. The following pilots took part in the Freestyle Race Competition: Ivan, Cahal, Nathan, Sylvester, Ben Anthony and Jaak. The overall winner was Ben Anthony.

The judging of this competition is very technical.

Each pilot is given 2 minutes for their display. The maximum score possible for a display is 10 points. The average of the 3 judges scores will become the pilot’s score before penalties are taken into account. Each section of the display is judged with maximum points awarded ranging between 1 and 3 points.

They are judged on the following criteria:

      1. Take off and Engagement
        • Does the pilot take off smoothly and go straight into their display.
        • Points are deducted for hesitation in performing the first trick or manoeuvre.
        • Points 0 – 1.
      2. Technical Difficulty
        • Did the pilot chain unique/technical tricks without repetition?
        • Longer chains of technical tricks will be awarded a higher score.
        • Points: 0 – 3.
      3. Synergy
        • Pilots were awarded points for the flow of their manoeuvres.
        • Points 0 – 2.
      4. Piloting Authority
        • Did the pilot appear in control of their craft throughout their entire routine?
        • Points: 0 – 1.
      5. Overall Display
        • Did the pilot’s display have the “wow” factor? Was the display balanced, exciting and entertaining for spectators?
        • Points: 0 – 3.
      6.  Penalties & Infringements
        • At the end of the display, the average of the Judges combined scores will become the pre-penalty score for the competing pilot.
        • There is .3 point deduction for each crash
        • Pilot leaving the arena but remains within the 30-meter safety line , 1 point deducted
        • Pilot leaves the arena but is outside the 30-meter safety line, they are disqualified.
      7.  Final score
        • The pilot’s final score is their pre-penalty score minus any deductions for infringements.

And the Irish Drone Nationals Champion is…?

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Davy Head of Crew with Irish Drone Champion Kent and 2nd place XY.FPV

 

Dave and Liam joined Kent and XY.FPV for the final. Flying against two professional pilots was a dream come through for Dave. Just being in the final was a great achievement.

Kent flies his own prototype quads while XY.FPV’s drones are made by shendrones. It was a closely run race with every pair of FPV following closely to see who would claim the title.

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Races could be seen on all eight judging monitors.

 

If you didn’t have goggles you could watch the race on the 8 judging monitors or watch it with your own two eyes. Keith gave a running commentary throughout the race to ensure everyone knew who was placed where.

And the winner…Kent was crowned Irish Drone Nationals Champion, not unexpectedly though he did admit to a wobble of nerves when the race was over!


Irish Drone Nationals Elements

There were a lot of elements involved in achieving a professionally run race that ensured the success of the 2016 Irish Drone Nationals, not least of all the protection and safety of spectators.


Mondello Park

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Declan Healy of Mondello Park with Skytango’s Lucy Jones!

 

 

Mondello Park coming on board contributed enormously to the overall success of this year’s event. From safety fencing to port-a-loos and the race control building itself…. you name it and they gave it. Declan Healy of Mondello Park, sees the interest in FPV Drone racing very closely aligned with Driftcar Racing, so he hopes to see more Drone Events at the park in the future.


Irish Drone Nationals Sponsors

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The Irish Drone Nationals are very grateful to their sponsors.

 

The Irish Drone Nationals would not have been such a professional success without the sponsorship and funding of the following companies:
Skytango (yep, that’s us!),  Aerial Media Ltd,  ifly TechnologyFast Lad Performance, Gemfanhobby, T-MotorDinogy Lipos,  Redbee FPV Copter SHOPRadio Controlled Shop Ireland,  Drone & Tech Expo Ireland, Drone Cover Ireland,  Radioc.co.uk,  ERSAERSA European CupDroneWorldsCoastways Surveys.


 

The Irish Drone Nationals Track

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John from Skytango took this aerial of the track using a 3DRobotics Solo Drone with a Gopro Hero 4 Black

 

The track consisted of a start gate followed by a left turn down a straight section through more gates. This ended in a sharp left turn into a slalom.

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Track Features

 

After the hairpin, the quad makes a corkscrew back to line up for the high gate. This was followed closely by a low tunnel and another left turn to bring you back past the Pilots Race Stand.


Insurance

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Derek Balfe & Aisling from Drone Cover Ireland

 

An event of this size could not be run without insurance and Drone Cover Ireland supplied it for the pilots, crew, and spectators at the Irish Drone Nationals.

Drone Cover Ireland are part of the O’Loughlin Insurance Group and offer Liability Insurance for Commercial Drone Operators based in Ireland. No matter what type of drone you fly; Fixed Wing, Octocopter, Hexacopter, Quadcopter, Tricopter or FPV, Drone Cover Ireland will insure you.


Which hat?

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The core organisers were also attempting to qualify for the European Cup.

 

Many of the pilots taking part in the Irish Drone Nationals wore a number of hats this weekend which added to their stress levels by the time they finally got to fly.

Keith ‘Thorax’ Tracy was MC for the event. Keith conducted interviews, educated the crowd on FPV, gave congratulations and commiserations as they were due and basically kept us all entertained and upbeat!

Gavin Costello was in charge at the pilot podium ensuring a smooth transition between race heats.

Jaak was Race Director, a role he took over from Gearóid.

Neil was chief electrician, head of erecting safety netting and fencing.

Dave was track engineer and according to the pilots, he did an awesome job!

Dan, a mechanic by day, was involved in getting the site cleared for the nationals, having the grass cut, acquiring the safety fences, sanitation, gazebos and the podium!

Gearóid was deputy Race Director and jumped into any role when someone needed a break.

Fernando and Ivan worked the computer ensuring the infrared timing system picked up pilot times.

Cahal was the mainstay of the judging area ensuring every pilot got a fair go at qualifying through the heats.


Not always about the Pilot

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FPV Quadcopter

 

Alongside fighting off nerves while taking part in the heats, a crash can mean time has to be spent on repairs. If a pilot can’t get his quadcopter back together after a crash and doesn’t have a backup quad, he is out of the race!


FPV Pilots Equipment

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Yep, look at all my FPV equipment! Photo: ® Slawomir Slawek, Drone Pilot for Aerial Media Ltd

 

What equipment does an FPV pilot travel with to a meetup or a race?

A quadcopter or two, FPV goggles, antenna, video transmitter, video receiver, batteries, more batteries, lots of memory cards for GoPros and dvrs, remote control transmitter, FPV camera and maybe a GoPro or two, spare parts, propellers, spare motors, soldering iron and tools, lots and lots of tools. Some pilots also use a ground station.


FPV Goggles

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A pilot wearing his Fat Shark FPV Goggles

 

All participating pilots have FPV goggles and they were very generous with them throughout the weekend, allowing spectators to have a try at tuning in on a pilot’s frequency and basically flying with them.

This was quite disorientating at first and several people lost their balance!

Because the races were so fast and the quads so small, watching through a pair of FPV goggles gave you a great view of a pilot’s race.

If he crashed, you simply switched to another channel and piggybacked on another pilot. If you couldn’t get your hands on some FPV goggles, the judges had eight monitors set up in such a way that spectators could view how a pilot was flying.


Race Control

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Two pilots walk back towards Race Control after their heat  Photo: ® Slawomir Slawek, Drone Pilot for Aerial Media Ltd

 

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There were multiple parts to Race Control

 

This was the control centre only open to pilots and crew. It had power, so batteries could be charged and quads could be mended. It also contained the infrared timing control area, pilot stations, media centre and podium.


Pilots Stations

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A pilot working on his quadcopter in between races.

 

Each pilot was given access to a table and chair within Race Control so he could work on his quadcopter.


Infrared Timing Control

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Jaak logging all pilots with their quadcopters into the IR timing system

 

The timer was attached to the start gate and the timings were sent to a control computer which was in the Race Control.


Judging Stations

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Every race was scrutinised and judged

 

Eight judging stations were set-up with a judge behind each monitor. The video-feed from a competing drone would show up on a matching monitor and judges decided if the pilot was consistent, passed through the circuit correctly, flew according to the rules etc.


Pilot Race Stand

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Pilot’s Racing Stand

 

Eight pilot’s chairs faced the field, protected by fencing and netting. Once a pilot placed his quad on the starting mat, he made his way to the chairs. This area was controlled by the race director who signalled the judges when a race was about to start. No one entered the field once a race commenced. Only when the race director gave the all clear did pilots walk out to collect their quads.


Coffee & Water

Thankfully Jaak brought a Nespresso machine, a kettle, tea bags and milk.  Life saver!

Unusually for Ireland, the weather was hot – so we needed water, lots and lots of water.


Soldering Station

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Sometimes the quadcopter needed a little solder applied.

This was essential for repairs to the quads.


Spectator Area

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Spectators were protected behind high fencing but it did not stop pilots from letting them try out their FPV goggles. Thanks John!

 

The spectator area was cleverly setup to allow people close access to the action but from behind a fence!

It ran down one side of the field and gave a full view of a race in progress.

Safety was paramount and there were two members of Kildare Civil Defence present at all times when spectators were on the field.

Pilots taking part in the Irish Drone Nationals were very generous with their FPV goggles, handing them to spectators so they could experience flying a quadcopter!


Don’t Hang the DJ!

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Dexter and his side-kick!

The tunes for the Irish Drone Nationals were brought to us by none other than Dexter Psychedelic! Alongside Keith, Dexter kept the grooves and vibes going creating a funky atmosphere.


IDN2016 Official T-Shirts

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Black for Core Organiser, Orange for Crew or Green for Pilot

What is a big event  without its very own customised T-Shirts?

These were clever Tees, colour coded so roles were instantly recognisable, black for core organisers, green for pilots and orange for crew.  And they are cool!


 The Future

The Irish Drone Nationals will continue to grow (though it will be hard to beat this year’s event!).

If you want to see some of the action from Saturday and Sunday go to the Irish Drone Nationals channel on YouTube: Irish Drone Nationals. They will add more videos to this channel as time goes on.

You could also follow them on Instagram: irishdronenationals, Twitter: @IDN2016 and Facebook: Irish Drone Nationals if you want to keep up with their progress.

In the meantime have a look at XY.FPV’s Instagram Video of racing the track!

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