UND, Research Institute for Autonomous Systems hosting First Annual Virtual Drone Racing Tournament

UND, Research Institute for Autonomous Systems hosting First Annual Virtual Drone Racing Tournament

Pilots from 18 schools across the country will fly virtually to compete for fastest pilot and fastest school in drone racing tournament broadcasted live on Midco Sports Network, YouTube and Twitch

The University of North Dakota and the Research Institute of Autonomous Systems (RIAS), in association with the Collegiate Drone Racing Association (CDRA), are hosting the First Annual Virtual Drone Racing Tournament this weekend, May 2-3.

Forty pilots from colleges across the country will be competing for fastest pilot and fastest school using Velocidrone, a fast-paced first-person-view (FPV) drone racing simulator.

The action will be broadcasted live on Midco Sports Network, both Saturday and Sunday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. CDT. The tournament also will be streamed live on YouTube and Twitch.

Saturday’s qualifying rounds will be streamed starting at 1 p.m. until approximately 5 p.m., then streaming will resume with the championship bracket starting at 7 p.m.

The CDRA has established a GoFundMe donation link, in connection to the event, in which proceeds will benefit the CDC Foundation and coronavirus relief.

Significant milestone

UND and the CDRA are once again partnering with MultiGP and Hydra FPV to provide tournament support and livestreaming capabilities at YouTube and Twitch, respectively. Joe Scully, vice president of event production for MultiGP and a well-known voice in drone racing, will provide play-by-play commentary for the action. Scully was on the scene at UND’s inaugural hosting of the Collegiate Drone Racing Championship last year.

“Once again, we have an awesome team for this event,” said Jordan Krueger, a UND graduate and RIAS project manager who’s now president of the CDRA. “We have 18 schools from around the country represented, and five pilots from UND will be competing.”

After UND and the CDRA postponed the 4th Annual Collegiate Drone Racing Championship until April 2021, Krueger drew the immediate connection to virtual competition. Simulators such as Velocidrone are typically the means by which FPV racers train for physical competition, and they use the same hardware for controlling simulated five-inch quadcopters.

Krueger said the partnership established with Midco Sports Network to broadcast the tournament live, on television, is a significant milestone for not only the tournament’s partners, but for the drone racing industry.

“This is a benefit to all parties and all pilots,” he said. “A lot of the effort is volunteered, and that is made knowing that this tournament will help grow the sport.”

Great partnerships

John Mihelich, UND’s interim vice president for research & economic development, said that among the benefits to RIAS’ mission of engaging existing and future autonomous systems researchers, the event produces something positive and forward-looking during times of uncertainty.

Specifically noted by Mihelich was the effort on the part of UND students in organizing and producing the virtual tournament, just as they were involved in the 2019 championship effort.

“The tournament offers an opportunity for UND to connect to its students, prospective students and other campuses,” Mihelich said. “We are supporting a first-of-its-kind collegiate competition, reinforcing our commitment to imagination and discovery and preparing students to actively lead and shape the future.”

Mihelich said the leadership and team at Midco Sports Network have been responsive, adaptable and community-focused.

“We are grateful for such partnerships and look forward to the many things we can accomplish in this realm,” he said.

The CDC Foundation fundraiser’s page will be available through the month of May, and can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/CDRACVRelief.