Drone racing takes flight in Burlington

Published: Aug. 7, 2018 at 10:11 PM EDT
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America's first ever permanent drone racing obstacle course is picking up some traction in Burlington.

On the first Tuesday of every month, a room at Generator in Burlington turns into a glowing obstacle course.

"It's something that we are going to keep adding to," explained Steve Mermelstein with Vermont Drone.

Mermelstein helped create the course and says it's like none other in the country.

"There is one other race course, and it's in Japan," Mermelstein said.

Mermelstein is the founder of Vermont Drone and recently turned his business into a sport.

"I got into it, just saw a video online. It looked like fun, something I could do," said Jordan Potvin, a drone pilot.

Potvin has been flying drones for two years and now gets to put his skills to the test.

The goal is to get through the course, weaving in and around gates, as fast as you can.

"It took a lot of additional time to be able to do the technical maneuvers and get through the gates like this," explained Potvin.

To make getting through the gates a little easier, competitors wear goggles that allow them to see the course through a first-person point of view.

"It's kind of like, 'Yes, through a drone, and you can fly.' It's pretty cool," said Derek Fecteau, a drone pilot.

Even with the goggles, crashes happen. But 10-year-old Fecteau says that's OK, it's all for fun.

"I like how it's not really competitive," he said.

"It's just a great way of getting women involved, getting children involved in the sciences and engineering," said Mermelstein.

Mermelstein says timing isn't a big deal yet but once everyone is up to speed the competition will pick up some heat.