Drone Racing League competition featured Newcastle's Daniel Ayre

Can you imagine a time when people become detached from reality and live only inside a computer, like in the movie Tron?

This is what came to mind when we interviewed Jesmond’s Daniel Ayre about simulated drone racing.

Daniel’s in New York at present. He’s just competed in an international simulated drone racing event, which was held in Times Square.

“It was unbelievable,” Daniel, who works as a physiotherapist, said.

“One minute I was playing a simulator at home. Next I was standing out the front of a store in Times Square signing autographs, being interviewed by media and having people I've never met ask for photos.”

The event was broadcast live on one of those massive screens [the Swatch screen] in Times Square.

Daniel Ayre at the New York drone event.

Daniel Ayre at the New York drone event.

If you’ve ever been to Times Square, you’ll know that’s a big deal. When you’re in Times Square surrounded by all those massive screens, it feels like you’re at the centre of the universe.

This event was no small thing. The winner received a US$75,000 contract to race real drones in the US for a year in the Drone Racing League, which is broadcast on TV channels like ESPN and Fox.

“I am unsponsored and paid to fly myself over to compete against another 23 racers from America and Canada who qualified for the event,” Daniel said.

The Drone Racing League created the simulator (basically a drone video game) to discover and recruit the best drone pilots for real-life drone racing.

In real races, players wear goggles that provide a virtual-reality style view of their flying drone.

“It’s almost an out-of-body experience,” Daniel said.

As for the video game, it’s been described as an “e-sport” that blurs the line between the physical and the digital environments. Hence, our Tron reference.

The video game also brings in revenue, raises brand awareness and attracts sponsors. Anyone can download the game for US$19.99. 

It’s been described as an “e-sport” that blurs the line between the physical and the digital environments. Hence, our Tron reference.

Daniel first became interested in drone racing when a friend sent him a YouTube video of real drones racing through a futuristic LED course, inside the NFL stadium of the Miami Dolphins.

“It looked so unreal, I thought to myself ‘I have to try this’,” he said.

As for the Times Square event, he said it was “an amazing experience that I will never forget”.

The other 23 competitors race drones in real life. Some have big sponsorships and represent national teams.

“I was meant to come in as an underdog, as I only started racing about seven months ago,” Daniel said.

“The others had maybe two to three years experience.”

But after performing well from home in online time-trials to qualify in the top 24, Daniel became one of the favourites to win the race.

The event was held at the Microsoft flagship store in Times Square, which has an e-sport studio.

“I believe it cost $50,000 a day to rent,” Daniel said.

Daniel particularly liked the social aspect of the event.

“It brings together all sorts of people who you would never expect to associate with each other,” he said.

Seems like we might be hearing a bit more in future about Daniel and drones.

Big Ships

The Queen’s Wharf Tower is, of course, seen by many as a phallic symbol.

Some might also see the coal ships that frequent the harbour as a similar symbol.

This is especially the case when one sees a ship named Dong-A.

  • topics@theherald.com.au
A ship in Newcastle with a funny name.

A ship in Newcastle with a funny name.