How Drones Will Show Us What It’s Really Like to Fly #DayOfTheDrones

Entering a darkened warehouse in Brooklyn, a clutch of sweaty local skaters attacked a Mtn Dew half-pipe while tiny lights whizzed around their heads.

These were “Tiny Whoops”, flown by Team Big Whoop, one of first drone racing teams in the world.

We were here for Day of the Drones, the event that’s kicking off this weekend’s Dr1 Invitational, presented by Mtn Dew.

But the stars of the evening were the Tiny Whoops. Barely the size of baby birds, and just as light, the TWs were steered by Jordan Temkin and Jesse Perkins, of Team Big Whoop. While Jordan (who is among the world’s best) guided his drone by looking at a screen, Jesse wore a white pair of googles. This, of all the things we would learn this evening, was the most profound: what an out-of-body experience flying a VR-equipped drone is actually like.

DON’T CALL IT A DRONE

First of all, drone-nerds don’t actually call them drones as much as they call them “multirovers” says Chris Thomas, founder and CEO of Multi GP, a drone-racing organization. “You’ll find two nerds with the goggles on, arguing about everyone calling them drones, and how that’s wrong,” he says.

IT’S HARDER THAN IT LOOKS

“There’s a steep learning curve,” says Jesse. “But the rewards are so huge. And they continue to compound as you learn to fly.”

INDEED, IT IS THE CLOSEST YOU MAY GET TO FLYING

“We all had that dream since we were a kid,” says Jordan. “You put these goggles on, and it’s an out-of-body transplant. You’re not longer just sitting flesh. You’re flying up in the air. You get to fly around a cliff, or building. The whole world opens up to whatever we want to do.”

“We went to these rocks in Green River, Wyoming,” says Jesse. “Thousands of people have visited these rock towers, but we went screaming over the top and the first thing we said was, ‘We want other people to see these the way we have.’ And nobody ever had before.”

Fans of VR headset x drone combinations include adrenaline junkies (Jordan was formerly into speed-skiing, and Chris was into fast-driving and skydiving). Jesse even told the story of a retired fighter jet pilot who finds deep satisfaction doing the kinds of flips, dips, and rolls that he couldn’t do in even the most advanced military aircraft.

BUT THERE’S A REASON THEY’RE ILLEGAL JUST ABOUT EVERYWHERE

“The tip of this blade is spinning at 200 m.p.h.” says Jordan. “If it hits you, you’re going to get stitches at the hospital. So, in NYC, if you’re flying over hundreds of people, you could really mess someone’s life up.”

IT’S A GREAT STRESS RELEASE

“If you fly somewhere, it’s like you’re the bird,” says Steve Cohen, leader of the Drone User Network, a drone-advocacy organization. “Sometimes I forget where I am,” adds Jordan.

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