RENO, Nevada – Attendees at this year’s National Championship Air Races at Reno took to the skies as part of the Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) Challenge held Sept. 16-20.
The challenge, which featured an obstacle and speed course for the unmanned flying vehicles commonly referred to as drones, was held at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s aviation mobile interactive exhibit, the Embry-Riddle Experience, and was sponsored by the University of Nevada, Reno’s Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center in partnership with NASA.
Building on the success of last year’s challenge, the event was composed of two separate competitions inside a netted 40 foot by 60 foot by 30 foot high enclosure: An “Open Class” where competitors raced their own drones and the “International Race of Champions” (IROC) format race where participants raced identical drones provided by Embry-Riddle.
The IROC Class competition was held daily Thursday through Sunday with qualifying in a time trial format to determine the four fastest competitors. The four fastest qualifiers then raced in a side-by-side semifinal and final seven race series. The Open Class competition allowed attendees to fly their own unmanned vehicles through the obstacle and speed courses and culminated in a championship battle on Sunday.
Contestants ranged in ages from 10 to 62, with experience flying unmanned vehicles from one to 45 years, Embry-Riddle officials said.
“We had some great competitions with two of the IROC championships coming down to the seventh and final side-by-side race. Ben Mackles dominated the competition, but had to battle Sam Hince for the championship all week. We also had spectacular demos from our friends at ‘The Game of Drones’ and Hobbico’s Josh Schiff showcasing the latest in sUAS technology,” said Embry-Riddle Worldwide Assistant Professor David Thirtyacre, who oversees the unmanned demonstrations and challenges for the Embry-Riddle Experience.
IROC Class Winners were:
- Thursday, Sept. 17: Todd Richman, 51, Reno
- Friday, Sept. 18: Steven Lutsch, 23, Reno
- Saturday, Sept. 19: Ben Mackles, 13, San Francisco
- Sunday, Sept. 20: Ben Mackles, 13, San Francisco,
Open Class Obstacle Course Winner: Sam Hince, 16, Sonora, CA
Open Class Speed Course Winner: Ben Mackles, 13, San Francisco
Open Class Combined Champion: Ben Mackles, 13, San Francisco.