Have you dreamt about sitting in the cockpit of the drone that you’re flying and having an unblocked view of all the actions around you? With virtual reality (VR) headsets, drone hobbyists can have a taste of just that.

VR technology is somewhat a game changer in the drone racing scene, as VR headsets allow for a first-person view (FPV) and much more immersive experience, said Mr Joseph Goh from Locoprops, a company that sells drone parts and accessories. He was speaking to The UrbanWire at a drone racing contest, held as part of this year’s Aliwal Urban Arts Festival.

According to Mr Goh, there are some 40 active drone racers in Singapore now, who fly different classes of drones from pint-sized quadcopters to their much bigger cousins.

Those who took part in the contest were flying what he called the “tiny whoop”, a FPV drone with an average wingspan of 3 inches. It’s able to accelerate from zero to 150km/h in a matter of seconds.

“Every drone is unique and can be modified down to its frame, motor and propeller,” Mr Goh said.

To ace the race, drone flyers had to maneuver their drones through a series of obstacles in the circuit and complete as many laps as possible within a given time. The first to complete 3 laps without having to “revive” their drones (flipping them after they capsize) was crowned the winner, and this time, the title went to 14-year-old Wong Jin Rong (below).

“I think it’s exciting and immersive when you wear the goggles, it gives you a first-person point of view – as if you are flying in the quadcopter itself,” said Jin Rong, who picked up this hobby in mid-2017 after learning about it from a friend. He was previously a radio-controlled (RC) car racing enthusiast.

VR headsets make it possible for drone racers to feel like they’re navigating a much larger and more exciting terrain even when they’re flying within a controlled space. This is why Mr Goh believes FPV drone racing is likely to win over more fans.

But for now, they will have to make do
with flying small drones.

“The government has regulations pertaining to drones for safety purposes…Some bigger drones even require a permit to fly,” said Mr Goh.

Currently in Singapore, owners of drones that have a payload exceeding 7kg require an Operator Permit and a Class 1 Activity Permit. As for “tiny whoop” owners, no permit is required for indoor and outdoor flying.

Drone permits can be applied at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).