Drone racing finds a home in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.

A new sport is taking flight in Bakersfield. Drone racing is catching on in other parts of the country and the world, and it’s found a place in Kern County.

Cousins Michael Avendano and Ian Sherrill began racing radio controlled cars and planes. But drones are now making it possible for them to take their hobby to new heights.

“We sleep it, we eat it, we breathe it,” Avendano said.

And while you may not have heard about drone racing yet, it’s taking the country by storm.

“We found drone racing to be the newest thing out, and it was the biggest money maker,” Avendano said. “And there’s no market out there for it, especially in this town.”

Combined with a virtual-reality-style headset, Avendano and Sherrill race and steer the drones from a first-person perspective.

“You get to experience something you’ve never experienced,” Avendano said. “You control the vehicle from behind the steering wheel now.”

Sherrill said first person view or FPV allows you fly to the drone in ways you couldn’t do with line of sight operation.

“It just completely immerses you into the RC hobby,” Sherrill said. “You get to see what it sees. You can fly it behind things.”

On weekends, they meet with racers from Bakersfield Multirotor, a drone club that gathers at St. John’s Lutheran Church to compete on an obstacle course for bragging rights.

“We’re racers,” Avendano said. “You say race, and we get our teeth out. So that’s kind of what we’re bringing to the town. And because it is one of the biggest-growing sports right now, and it is one of the most exciting.”

They even turned their hobby into a business where they sell and repair drones, complete with a 3D printer to print replacement parts for the crafts.

And they share their knowledge to anyone looking to get started in the racing circuit, but they offer one piece of advice for beginners.

“Start out with something very inexpensive,” Sherrill said. “Don’t just jump into it because you never know, you might not like it.”

Avendano and Sherrill stress the drones are not toys. Some can fly up to 60 miles per hour. That’s why they stress the importance of proper training and safety when taking up the sport.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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