The Western Hotel on East Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, a closed up Casino, was home to the first event of the new Xtreme Drone Circuit. Sponsored by Las Vegas’ Downtown Project, the event drew over 20 competitors to participate in a day of drone racing, a sport that requires racers to manipulate drones at high speeds around obstacles using First Person View (FPV) goggles.
The new sport has attracted thousands of participants, and has fans all over the world watching FPV footage of the fast-flying drones posted to YouTube and other social media sites. The drones, weighing less than a pound and usually built from parts by their operators, can fly at speeds up to 70 mph.
Shaun Taylor of New Mexico won the competition, receiving a $1,000 cash prize from sponsors; the runner-up, Abel Almaguer, received a $750 prize. But racers are in it for the fun and the glory, saying that the new sport is “addictive.”
The Western Hotel, a Downtown Project property which can be rented out for events, was transformed into a drone racetrack involving obstacles such as free-standing arches and hoops, windows, and doorframe. Races consisted of four laps around the obstacle circuit.
Vegas knows how to put on a show, and the organizers succeeded in orienting the race towards general spectators, allowing them to watch without FPV goggles by providing live video feeds on simulcast screens provided in the venue. The race provided drinks, music, and a light show to enhance the experience of the viewer. Allowing the audience to experience the race has been a challenge for other organizers, and the sport has remained largely unknown outside of the circle of enthusiasts.
“This was a test event for us,” Mark Rowland, Downtown Ventures CEO and an organizer of the Xtreme Drone Circuit told the Las Vegas Sun. “We’ve learned a lot about what we can do to make it even more of a spectator event.”