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Crown property

Racing drones reach speeds of up to 160kmh as they hurtle around purpose-built courses – and this emerging sport can be found in Christchurch’s red zone.

Man remotely operating a drone

Red Zone Drone Racing Inc has a site at Burwood’s East x East space, with club members meeting regularly to practice and to hold events that encourage more people to try the sport.

As landowner of this Crown-owned red zone land, Land Information New Zealand considers short-term leases and licences to use the area for up to six months – or until the land transfers to Christchurch City Council.

Since 2016, we’ve facilitated more than 2,800 transitional land uses, including about 150 short-term projects and events that include everything from community gardens and festivals, to unique projects such as drone racing.

Custom-built racing drones contain small cameras that feed data to goggles worn by racers – enabling them to steer their drone through a series of gates and poles with flags, says club president Nathan van Slooten.

“They’re pretty quick – they have a top speed of 160kmh when going in a straight line and you’re still pushing 100kmh around corners.
“Crashes are a part of it – if you’re not crashing, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Of course you’re not intending to crash but you’re always pushing to go faster and faster. It’s a good thing that most of us build our own because that makes it easier to sort them out.”

The Christchurch club formed in 2016 – about a year after drone racing emerged as a sport globally – and it’s growing in popularity as the technology improves and drones become more affordable, Nathan says.

“The drones we use are different to usual ones – they’re built for speed and for flying around courses. This means that most of the drones used in our club are built by the people flying them.”

Until March, the drone racing club is running a twilight racing season along with open days. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.



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