March 26, 2020 8:59 pm

Friday, Take to the Skies as StarTalk Sports Investigates Drone Racing – with Nurk!

Zooooom! Did you hear that whiz by your head? Was it a small bird? Maybe a large insect? I’m here to tell you, it was a drone. Did this actually happen? No. A drone did not just fly by your head while you’re hunkered down in quarantine. But, what will happen is an exploration into one of the fastest growing sports in the world – drone racing.

On this week’s episode of StarTalk Sports Edition, Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice are ready to investigate the world of drone racing and all its intricacies. If you’re unfamiliar with drone racing, it’s “a new high-speed competitive racing sport. Skilled pilots fly quad-copter drones through three-dimensional courses at speeds up to 120mph. DRL drones are custom built for speed, agility, and performance. Pilots steer from the point of view of the drone by wearing First Person View (FPV) goggles that display a live image transmitted by an onboard camera. Flying a drone competitively at high speed in FPV is an intense, immersive experience.”

DRL’s photo of Paul Nurkkala winning the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship.

Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala winning the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship. Credit: DRL.

To start, you’ll hear from Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala, the 2018 Drone Racing League (DRL) Allianz World Champion. You’ll find out how Nurk got his start in drone racing and how he ascended to the pinnacle of the sport. We discuss the symbiotic relationship between drone racing and Esports. Is it an Esport? Is it a “regular” sport? Are the people flying the drones athletes? Nurk takes us inside the ropes as he describes what it’s like to race firsthand. You’ll learn why he describes it as an “out of body experience.” Nurk shares why the most difficult part of racing is keeping your nerve.

Discover more about building drones for races. We investigate what factors a racer considers when building the best drone. Neil tells us about the use of drones when filming the new Cosmos: Possible Worlds series. And, you’ll find out just how many hours of practice it takes to make it to the top level of drone racing.

Then we’re joined by Justin Pearce, Chief Engineer of the RQ-21 unmanned air vehicle at Insitu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Boeing Company. Justin tells us what the RQ-21 is being developed for. You’ll hear what elevates the RQ-21 from a regular quad-copter, like those in the Drone Racing League. Learn the tech specs behind the RQ-21: how far it can go, how fast it can go, and what makes it fly. Lastly, we discuss the implantation of artificial intelligence into drones. All that, plus, like driverless cars, we ponder how soon we will have pilotless commercial airplanes.

You can find Unmanned: Drone Racing and Tech right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen

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