By John Fenton
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Drones have changed the tides of war, helped find lost people during search and rescue missions and altered how businesses operate. Now, with new advances in technology, drones are again evolving into something new: sporting equipment.
With the emergence of the Drone Racing League (DRL) on ESPN, this fast-growing sport is now available to its biggest audience yet, and Colorado is well-represented among its top competitors.
Jordan Temkin, 25, better known in the drone community as “Jet”, never thought he’d be making a living off his favorite hobby.
“I started flying about three and a half years ago,” Tempin told CBS4.
But in the first two seasons of the DRL, Jet has flown to the front of the pack, proving himself the fastest drone pilot in the world with back-to-back championship wins.
The feat has earned him a $100,000 contract, and is helping skyrocket the budding new sport into the mainstream.
“When I first started out, no one knew what a drone was, no one had heard of a drone. It scared a lot of people to see it for the first time,” said Temkin.
Now the internet is flooded with drone videos, many of them shot using these slick, high-performance racing machines, which pilots fly in “first person view.”
“What we’re seeing is there’s a camera that feeds video back to the goggles, and we’re flying the drones as if we’re in the cockpit.”
The technology is impressive, boasting top speeds of nearly 100 miles an hour. At full throttle, the aircraft reach those speeds in mere seconds.
“Like a sports car,” Temkin explained, “it’s not fuel efficient, but darn it, it’s fast.”
Flying a racing drone requires precision control, with pilots controlling four axes (throttle, pitch, roll, and yaw) simultaneously to maneuver the craft through a race course. Temkin, who lives in Fort Collins, says Colorado is the perfect place to sharpen his skills.
“Mostly what we do is just go into the Rockies, find some awesome cliffs, and just fly in nature.”
Jet’s “practice” footage, featured on his Youtube channel, offers unique, albeit dizzying views of Colorado’s signature landscapes.
He hopes the sport continues to grow in popularity, for entertainment and for education.
“It’s really helpful in terms of STEM [science, technology, engineering, math]. You learn electronics, aerodynamics, soldering, video editing, photography… so there’s a lot to be learned.”