Everyone knows that as soon as you get three confirmed kills in an armed conflict, you’re eligible for a personal UAV. What? Call Of Duty isn’t real? Oh… so a 360° quick scope hasn’t been performed on the frontline? Pfft, sign me up fellas, I’ll win us these conflicts in a couple of minutes. After all, I’ve got the Mile High Club achievement; I’m a professional!
Of course, I’d likely be of little use in an armed skirmish. Regardless, unmanned aerial vehicles have really taken off these last few years (see what I did there?). From use in Afghanistan, to use in your back garden. Obviously, the UAV in your garden or in your local park won’t have missiles and other mass-murder capabilities. At least I hope not. I’m not here to talk about military aircraft anyway, I want to talk about the more commercially available stuff; these ‘drones’ or ‘quadcopters’ as they’re more commonly called. They’ve picked up so much in recent times, that they now have their own competitive racing events.
It’s the way in which these drones are piloted that interests me. Yes, the cheaper ones can be controlled by your phone and, if it has one, the camera displays on your phone screen too. The proper ones, and I mean the proper-proper ones are controlled a little more intuitively.
These headsets may look a little funky and look very similar to the virtual reality goggles that are popping up left, right and centre; but they have some very special differences. These racing drones are typically controlled from a first person perspective often referred to as ‘First Person View’ or ‘FPV’. Pretty self-explanatory really, the cameras are placed on the very front of the aircraft, making you it’s literal and theoretical eyes. Much like when controlling a player in a First Person Shooter game, you see what ‘it’ sees. Although you can use a TV or monitor to view the live video, using these specialist goggles immerses the racer so much more and is certainly the preferred setup to for the pros. They’re controlled by a controller too, similar to what you’re used to if you game on consoles, or PC if you’re that way inclined.
Personally, if it looks like a video game, feels like a video game and reacts like a videogame; that’s reason enough for me to talk about it on this blog. I reckon I have what it takes too. Seriously. I’ve got great hand-to-eye coordination helped from the abundance of racquet sports I play, as well as the reaction times that only an avid gamer can possess. Roll these up, add the flight simulator game prowess and surely I’m onto a winner? I’ll be world champion in no time, right? Wrong. Turns out that It’s pretty damn hard. How do I know? Well, there’s an official simulator you can play on your PC or Mac and it’s licensed by the Drone Racing League. You can download the simulator here; and it has both singleplayer and multiplayer modes. It’s compatible with a variety of controllers too, not just those huge bulky things, but Xbox and Playstation pads for a little more familiarity. But how will this help for you to get noticed and earn a living flying little toasters through the air? Well, on the downloadable game, there’s a mode called ’Tryouts’. In Tryouts mode, pilots will complete a pre-defined series of courses and the aggregate time to complete all races represents their score. Scores are then submitted to a leaderboard. The top 24 submissions will be invited to an in-person tournament for the opportunity to receive a contract as a pilot in DRL. I’ve had some mixed games, but I haven’t had a go of the Tryouts mode as I don’t think I’m quite there yet skill-wise. It’s worth a punt in the future though, surely?
You may have seen that drone racing is actually a feature on Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs 2. It’s relatively quick paced and seems to be a decent imitation of the real thing. I can’t speak for certain though, as I’m yet to play the new release and of course, I’ve only watched videos of the real thing so my opinion isn’t exactly relevant.
Watch Dogs 2 isn’t the first game to feature drones. Of course the Call Of Duty games have regularly used UAVs in their multiplayer as reconnaissance vehicles. Similarly, drones have been used frequently in the Ghost Recon series too, another Ubisoft game, as a means to scout the battlefield.
I’m droning on now… alright, I’ll get my coat.