While college athletes across the country compete in the championship round of the College National Finals Rodeo, another rodeo is happening just down the street.
A drone rodeo.
On Saturday, the Casper Air Modelers is teaming with the Casper Sports Alliance, hosting the first Western States Drone Rodeo.
“Drones are becoming real popular, obviously. So we wanted to try and hold an event that would expose people to an organized side of the hobby,” said Josh Nelson, president of the Casper Air Modelers.
“Also, (we’re) trying to get rid of the stigma that (drones) are dangerous and causing all kinds of problems. If used in a responsible manner, they’re just a lot of fun.”
This is the first drone-related event hosted by the Casper Air Modelers, whose outdoor course near the Casper Events Center is mainly reserved for model airplanes.
The event will feature obstacle courses, races and more. The idea came from John Giantonio, director of the Casper Sports Alliance.
“What we want to do is invite every and all of the drone operators, people who are out there who think they have a shot at competing, to come out and look and see how it’s done,” Giantonio said.
According to a press release, some events will feature races in first-person view. That means the pilot will wear electronic goggles and view the race from the drone’s perspective. There will also be line of sight races, where the pilot operates the drone from a stationary point.
Pilots will be forced to navigate the course with tight 90-degree turns at speeds up to 50 mph. That means one thing. Crashes.
“That’s a guarantee,” Nelson said. “You’ll have four to five guys flying all at once. On the course, they’re bound to run into each other. Flying from three feet to 15 feet in the air. So they’ll definitely start running into stuff and into each other. It’s kind of exciting.”
Drones of all sizes can compete, and contestants of all ages are encouraged to participate. It cost $20 to race on the day of the event. Registration begins at 8 a.m. but the event doesn’t start until 9. There will be qualifying rounds, leading to six eventual first-place winners. Venom Power, a company that sells drone batteries, will provide the prizes.
There will be no drone rodeo belt buckles.
“It’s our first year, so we’ll see what happens and see how well it goes on,” Giantonio said. “We may end up in the near future having buckles.”