By Mick Jensen
|With his goggles strapped on and controls in hand, Cornelius Grobler launches his racing drone skywards.
In the blink of an eye the machine is 100m away.
It may, one day, take him to an annual event in Dubai where the world’s best race drones for a big pay day.
His compact drone can reach a top speed of 170kmh, but typically cruises at around 80kmh.
The drone is taken through its paces with a series of manoeuvres that include ducking, diving and looking for gaps and angles.
Flying time is short, just five to eight minutes on a typical battery run.
But, with spare batteries in his bag, Cornelius can launch his drone on four or five flights at a session.
The drone has a built in camera and also a strapped on Go-Pro that records in high definition. Cameras are controlled through the goggles and there is a birds-eye view as the drone soars through the sky.
Cornelius’ favourite flying location is Ashburton Domain.
Impressive footage on his Facebook page shows his skill at the controls and also offers an alternative, aerial view of the popular location.
Cornelius is careful where he flies and does not fly over homes or near the airport.
“For me drone flying it just such a lot of fun. It’s both a passion and a hobby.
“It’s had some negative publicity of late, which is a real shame, but I can recommend it to all ages.”
It was an affordable hobby, he said.
He had started with a gifted, basic drone and had quickly been hooked.
He had built up his skills over time, through trial and error, and also with the help of a simulator.
More robust drones had been used when he was learning and he had suffered a few crashes.
He now spent more money on the hobby and had moved on to racing drones.
His set up of the five-inch racing quad drone, goggles, batteries and modifications had cost him around $1000.
A new drone was due to arrive soon and he was excited.
“I’ve seen footage of this new one and it’s about half the size of my current model and can do two thirds of the speed.”
Cornelius said drones came with three main modes; stability mode, horizontal mode and acro mode.
“In acro mode you use the remote control stick to control the angular velocity of the copter.
“Using the manual throttle gives you more manoeuvrability.”
Acro mode wasn’t for beginners, he said, but when mastered, meant you could perform aerobatics such as flips or rolls.
Drone flying and racing is becoming more popular in New Zealand and around the world these days.
Local drone flyers meet at the Harris Scenic Reserve, near Tinwald, every Sunday, while Christchurch also hosts a regular gathering.
Cornelius is eager to test his flying skills further and is keen to meet up with fellow enthusiasts.
The youth mentor and boxing academy coach also hopes to introduce the drone’s capabilities to some of his young charges. His dream is to race his drone against the best at an annual event in Dubai.