Paris is the first capital in the world to host a drone race in the middle of the street. Sunday, September 4, the Champs Elysées were tuned into a huge flying area surrounded by booths, including a fablab.
On Sunday, September 4 at 2pm, the Champs Elysées were closed to traffic, the metro stations closed and pedestrians controlled at police check points. An impressive flying area had been set up (140-meter-long by 7-meter-high), filled with all kind of obstacles, small bridges, tunnels and other flags bearing the ERSA (the European Rotor Sports Association), for the very first Paris Drone Festival. At the south side of the drone aviary, a paddock, term coming from Formula 1 that refers to the warm up area.
The event was proposed by the City of Paris and Geoffray Sylvain, organizer of this Paris Drone Festival. The best pilots of FPV Racing, a race with the drone camera as sole point of reference, did not need to be asked twice to shine on the most beautiful avenue in the world. The public was present.
But the stated objective of the organizers was to support the leisure drone trend, especially with regards to security. Loud speakers were regularly drumming messages into our heads: “You do not fly over people,” etc. As the festival began, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced the opening of two outdoor areas in Paris to supervise the practice of leisure drones, one Sunday per month. First sessions in Longchamp on September 18 and at the Parc de la Villette early October, accessible after prior registration with a €5 entry fee.
But let’s get back to the competition. Might as well say it now, difficult to follow a race of minuscule drones that zoom past at 130km/h with a piercing noise like irritated mosquitoes. Fortunately, we could watch the races through the eyes of the pilots, all equipped with glasses reproducing the video stream of the front camera of their drones. An application also allowed you to choose different viewing angles on your smartphone. The images were fluid and the Cinemizer Oled glasses from the French firm Microoled provided themselves with great publicity.
FPV Racing is a little like Formula 1 combined with video games. So it’s no surprise to find (very) young digital natives among the world elite of pilots, namely the British teenager Luke Bannister, 16, who according to organizers would have already won several hundred thousand dollars, in Dubai for instance. The French were also present. Indeed, it was a Frenchman, Dunkan Bossion, who won the individual final, facing the young Brit.
Anatomy of a race
Lorem, a Parisian fablab specialized in drones, benefited from this exceptional site to offer on its booth initiations into the making of mini-drones. Also to be noted, the presence of workshops from the Magic Makers who were dedicating themselves to teaching the programming part to the young.
Even though one could regret that finally not many drones were set into action during the event, except for the competition mosquitoes, all the same we were able to attend another first, the demonstration of a drone from French postal service La Poste delivering a parcel. An imposing quadricopter developed by the French start up Atechsys that could be followed by spectators, this time visible to the naked eye.