Earlier this year, Wallingford resident James Cullen stumbled upon a popular video online, and he was immediately infatuated with drone racing.
“It was just the coolest thing ever and it started my addiction ever since,” Cullen said.
Cullen was one of six drone racers in the back field at Wild Bill’s Nostalgia in Middletown flying their drones recently through a racetrack set up by James Dicklow, president of the CT Wild Flyers. Another indoor track twists through the nostalgia shop’s ecclectic inventory.
“We started as a group of guys that were actually working together at Pratt & Whitney and we were looking for something to do that would put us into more of an organized group,” Dicklow said. “At that point we came together and formed the CT Wild Flyers around October of last year.”
Dicklow, of Middletown, got permission from Wild Bill’s Nostalgia, 1003 Newfield St., to create a drone race course in the back field.
Even with a steady mist coming from the sky on a Sunday morning earlier this month, a handful of members were flying their drones through the course Dicklow set up.
“Drone racing basically puts people in the driver’s seat like being a real pilot. They control it with their hands but they wear goggles that will get them a first-person view,” Dicklow said. “Same as if you were sitting in the front of the plane, you’re doing the same thing here.”
The first-person view they see comes from the camera on the drone.
“Everything becomes an obstacle, everything becomes a challenge. It basically feels like you’re flying even though you’re sitting still or standing, whichever you prefer. It’s in one spot,” Dicklow added.
In the past year their chapter had grown with members from all over the state.
The chapter meets on weekends throughout the year.
“The camaraderie is basically why I joined it as well,” Cullen said. “You have five guys here and it’s fun. You crash, you build and you repeat, that’s what it comes down to. It’s fun.”
Crashing and then rebuilding the drone is one of the most common parts of race day.
“A little skill is involved to not crash drones,” Dicklow laughed. “It’s build, crash and repeat. The whole hobby is build, crash and repeat.”
All racers in CT Wild Flyers build their own drones. It wasn’t always that way.
When Ian Bailey first started, he bought himself a racing drone. Now he says he doesn’t even use it because when you build your own drone you know how it works and how to fix it.
The chapter also competes with chapters from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other Connecticut chapters and recently they sent their top five racers to a New England competition.
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