By Victoria Lawson | Echo
The exhilarating aerial sport of the future - drone racing - is more accessible to Taylor students than ever before thanks to TUPilots, Taylor's own drone club.
Before the club can eventually develop into a drone racing team, the club seeks to recruit new members as they educate the campus on drone flight - and who better to share those experiences than 2018 Drone Racing League World Champion Paul "Nurk" Nurkkala?
On Wednesday, May 8 from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. in Euler 109, Nurkkala will demonstrate his piloting abilities through video presentations of his races, discuss the drone racing community and various types of drones, and fly a mini-drone for spectators, if permitted. Event participants and TUPilots club members will have the opportunity to engage with Nurkkala at the end of the event during a Q&A session in addition to refreshments for all who stop by to hear him speak.
According to the official Drone Racing League (DRL) website, DRL is a worldwide racing circuit for the top professional drone pilots. The drones are custom built for racing and travel at speeds up to 90 MPH+. Pilots race FPV (First Person View) through video game-esque 3D courses.
Drone racing has now aired on household-name sports networks, such as NBC Sports, Twitter, Sky Sports, ProSieben, Groupe AB, OSN and FOX Sports Asia.
Nurkkala is a Taylor alumnus, and TUPilots President freshman Calvin Ochs considers it an honor to host such a successful drone pilot.
"Even for people who aren't interested in drones, it is an incredible experience for people to experience the power and impressiveness of these drones and to be able to meet the fastest drone racer in the world," Ochs said. "Speaking from firsthand experience of seeing Paul fly, I have not seen a more impressive display of the way drones could be used for entertainment and enjoyment."
As for TUPilot's long-term trajectory, Ochs has more structured goals in mind for the club - which include the ability to build and program drones, learn the aerodynamics of how drones stay in the air and exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) flight. He also intends to educate people on the sport of drone racing and hopes Nurkkala's appearance on campus will encourage others to learn more.
TUPilots is an official Taylor club which receives funding from the university, as well as permission for an outside zone on campus where drones are allowed to fly with insurance coverage. A room on the bottom floor of Euler serves as an additional fly space where drones can fly inside of a net. TUPilots met sporadically after its inception in 2015 and was revived in 2019 by Ochs.
Freshman Tristan Friederich, vice president of TUPilots, was involved in FIRST Robotics in high school where he was able to help make large robots to compete in annual challenges. He enjoys technology and engineering and joined TUPilots to gain experience in that field.
"I think it's awesome that the number one drone racer in the world went to Taylor and is willing to come and share his knowledge with us," Friederich said. "You don't need to know a whole lot to join, all you need is a passion to learn new things and we'll teach you them."
If interested in joining TUPilots, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the email list for updates on club meetings and future events.