When I started the hobby, I am aware that there are two ways of flying FPV which is racing and freestyle. Drone racing has been going on for a while with professional competition all over the world such as DRL and MultiGP. But, freestyle doesn’t seem to have a specific venue, because as the name suggests, it’s free flying with style.
I would like to explore a bit on how does someone who started with FPV approach these two styles of flying. In racing, there are specific tracks, obstacles, goals, and time tracker. It’s structured, and the goal is obvious: to be the fastest to finish the track. But does that mean being the fastest is all it takes? Depends on what it means to be fast. I have been using the DRL (Drone Racing League) simulator, and have participated in the 2020 Tryout tracks, which is a course in
Drone Park, and as someone who is just starting, it’s extremely hard to get to the top. Even on a simulator, not the real race.
How difficult is it to race at Drone Park?
As you can see from the video, the track is the most challenging I’ve ever seen compared to DRL tracks in previous years, as it involves multi-directional full-throttle maneuver, power-loops, corkscrew, and more. A slight interruption to flow will just ruin everything and it will definitely drop your lap time. I could finish the track but with about 2-3 of the time it takes compared to the #1 in the leaderboard. Also, it’s very difficult to do inverted power loop, while staying on track with full throttle. Alpha Pilot? Let’s just say robotics and AI will need to learn animal instinct before it can compete with the best FPV pilots.
In comparison, flying freestyle is about learning tricks and maneuver in various interesting location and spots. The goal is mostly about how each style transition smoothly to the next style. What is a good style is also subjective, but in general if you have a very good and precise control of how to fly a racing quad, you can transition to freestyle easily. Because the dynamics are similar, just the goals are different.
I found that practicing racing skills are hard but more motivating than a non-targeted practice of freestyle tricks. This is especially true in a simulator (DRL or VelociDrone), where you don’t really have real-world immersion. In the real world, practically it’s easier to fly freestyle in most cases. Thus, I tend to view freestyle as a relaxation or exploration flying that you couldn’t do with racing. It’s likely that the better someone is at racing, the better someone could be at freestyle.