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29
Apr

Elon Musk gives us a glimpse of Tesla’s electric semi truck


Elon Musk made a few revelations about some his newer projects this week, including the electric semi-truck Tesla has been working on since 2016. The automaker promised to unveil the big rig this September, but the Tesla-slash-SpaceX chief has given us a shadowy first look during his TED talk on April 28th. Based on what little we can see in the image above, it looks smoother than your average truck, with headlights and general design that seem to take cues from the company’s cars.

Musk described the vehicle as a “spry truck” that you can drive around like a sports car — he said he’d already taken it for a spin himself. You can judge for yourself when Tesla reveals it in its full glory this fall. Other than Tesla’s big rig, Musk also showed off what The Boring Company’s digging machine looks like earlier this week. His new company released a concept video showing how an underground tunnel network can help commuters get to their destinations much faster than before.

Elon Musk teased semi-truck at TED talk. pic.twitter.com/sY0w7KSsTx

— Johana Bhuiyan (@JMBooyah) April 28, 2017

Source: AutoBlog, TechCrunch

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29
Apr

Recommended Reading: The genetics of better beer


You Want Better Beer?
Good. Here’s a Better
Barley Genome

Adam Rogers,
Wired

The beer industry certainly isn’t hurting for money these days, but a group of scientists are trying to figure out how to make the beverage even better. They’re doing so by breaking down the genome of barley, a key ingredient in the brewing process that that turns starch into sugar for yeast to transform into alcohol during fermentation. Wired has the story of how the geneticists could be on the way to improving suds for all of us to enjoy.

What Makes Oddworld Tick
Richard Moss, Polygon

Lorne Lanning, creative director of Oddworld Inhabitants, offers a look into the Oddworld universe as he works on his latest title Soulstorm.

‘Austin Powers’ at 20: Mike Myers, Jay Roach, More Spill Secrets in Shagadelic Oral History
Ryan Parker, The Hollywood Reporter

Groovy, baby. Yeeeeeeah!

Bill Nye Saves the World from Disabled People
Crippled Scholar

Bill Nye’s new Netflix series is here and the manner in which the show tackles the subject of so-called designer babies is rather troubling.

How to Detect Fake News in Real-Time
Krishna Bharat, NewCo Shift

Need to sharpen your fake news hunting skills? Here are some tips from a founder of Google News.

29
Apr

Samsung Chromebook Pro vs. Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA: Which 2-in-1 is superior?


The first line of Chromebooks launched in 2011, aiming to provide full PC functionality at a fraction of the price. Chromebooks — so named because they run on Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS — are svelter than traditional laptops, trading size for value and connectivity for convenience. As technology progresses and we’re able to pack more power into smaller spaces, though, the best Chromebooks are capable of doing everything that most laptops can do.

Asus and Samsung are two of the biggest names when it comes to personal computing, pumping out several laptop and Chromebook models each year. The most recent additions to each collection — the Chromebook Flip C302CA and the Chromebook Pro, respectively — are some of the finest Chromebooks that we’ve ever gotten our hands on. Which one is superior?

Samsung Chromebook Pro

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

Dimensions
11.04 x 8.72 x 0.55 (in)
11.97 x 8.3 x 0.54 (in)
Weight
2.38 pounds
2.65 pounds with battery
Keyboard
Full size keyboard
Full size, illuminated chiclet keyboard
Processor
Intel Core m3 (4M Cache, up to 2.2 GHz)
Intel Core m3 (4M Cache, up to 2.2 GHz)
RAM
4GB LPDDR3
4GB DDR3
Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 515
Intel HD Graphics 515
Display
12.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology
12.5-inch LED-backlit Full HD display
Resolution
2,400 x 1,600 (235 ppi)
1,920 x 1,080 (176 ppi)
Storage
32GB eMMC
64GB eMMC
Networking
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports
USB Type-C/Thunderbolt (2), microSD, headphone jack
USB Type C 3.1 (2), microSD, headphone jack
Webcam
720p web cam
HD web camera
Operating System
Chrome OS
Chrome OS
Battery
39-watt-hour
39-watt-hour
Price
$550
$500
Availability
Late April
Now – Amazon

Review
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Performance and hardware

ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

While Asus’ website displays specifications for three different models of the Flip, the only version currently available for purchase features a second-generation Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, which is the exact same microchip that powers the Samsung Chromebook Pro. As Chromebooks, both the Flip and the Pro eschew dedicated graphics cards in favor of Intel HD Graphics 515, offloaded from the processing chip. Additionally, both laptops are outfitted with 4GB of RAM, though the LPDDR3 memory in the Pro is a bit more efficient (and therefore expensive) than the regular DDR3 memory in the Flip.

Both computers utilize eMMC flash storage, though the Flip offers 64GB, while the Pro only includes 32GB. Compared to the SDD drives we’re used to seeing in laptops, these guys aren’t going to be setting speed records, but they perform well given context. Both can be expanded via microSD card. Each computer is equipped with an HD webcam and a 39-watt-hour battery as well. Altogether, there’s very little separating these two ‘books in terms of performance. Don’t expect either one to outstrip the other in terms of speed or energy usage, though the Pro’s LPDDR3 RAM does offer a slight advantage in terms of efficiency, while the Flip offers a bit more onboard storage.

The speakers on both computers are fairly basic, and you’ll want headphones or an external speaker for anything more demanding than simple Youtube videos. Both computers are outfitted with 39-watt-hour batteries, but the Asus’ lasted about an hour longer in the Peacekeeper browser benchmark loop. Confusingly, the Pro actually lasted an hour longer than the Flip in the video loop test, so there aren’t many conclusions to be drawn in terms of battery superiority. Despite the Asus’ lack of an onboard fan, it never came close to overheating during our time with it.

Winner: Tie

Design and connectivity

Samsung Chromebook Pro review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

If you’re going to buy a 2-in-1 laptop, design is one of the most important aspects; a loose hinge or a misplaced power port can make all the difference between a best-in-class computer and a $500 paperweight. The Samsung Chromebook Pro is a great example of the former, with a magnesium alloy chassis that looks great and feels strong. Our review model was silver, but at release it’ll just be available in black. The 360-degree hinge is sturdy, and sticks satisfyingly at any angle. As with any 2-in-1, some of the functions are awkward in tablet mode; here, the power and volume buttons end up on the bottom. Not a huge deal, but kind of annoying if you plan to use the Pro in tablet mode often.

With Chromebooks, the keyboard often can be a sticking point, as there’s minimal surface area available. The Pro suffers a bit here, as there’s simply not enough key travel distance to feel natural; also, the keyboard isn’t backlit, which is very surprising and somewhat disappointing. Plus, the touchpad is small, which feels limiting when you try to use Chrome OS gestures. Luckily, the keys themselves are firm and responsive, pressing deep into the board. The Pro also comes with a digitizer stylus, which works extremely well with Android apps (more on that later), and with Google Keep handwriting recognition.

The Flip features a similarly clean design, crafted from aluminum and featuring an equally effective 360-degree hinge. The full-size, backlit keyboard is superior to the Chromebook Pro’s, though the keys don’t feel quite as responsive. The touchpad here is small, too, but what more can you expect from a Chromebook? The Flip is about a third of a pound heavier than the Pro, but at more than 2 pounds each, neither is ideal for extended use in tablet mode.

In terms of connectivity, you won’t find any meaningful difference between the two; each computer’s got a headphone jack and a microSD card slot, and both utilize Bluetooth 4.0 and standard 802.1.1 Wi-Fi. The Flip includes two USB Type-C ports, while the Pro’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Winner: Tie

29
Apr

Your wireless carriers are doing better and we have the numbers to prove it


People hate their wireless carriers, yet we put up with them anyway. Alongside death, taxes, and the Star Wars prequels, wireless carriers are something we must accept. While they’re trying to repent their ways with new plans, deals, and enticing features, carriers in America are still capable of displeasing their customers. But if you look at wireless companies in other countries, and the actions of our carriers from a few years ago, you start to realize something: U.S. carriers are charging less than they were before, and they’re more in line with their European and Asian counterparts.

So, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon; listen up. You’ve got a relatively good thing going now, but we know you can still do better.

U.S. carrier plans are more reasonably priced

Apple-Intends-to-Crush-CarriersIt shouldn’t cost more than $100 a month to own a smartphone, and it shouldn’t cost up to $70 a month for a basic phone either.

The price for wireless service anywhere still varies greatly due to a number of reasons, but let’s start with something simple that should be pretty inexpensive: A smartphone plan with a few gigabytes of data, a lot of minutes, and unlimited messaging. This is a wireless plan that’s pretty typical with all the necessities covered whether you love your iPhone or your Galaxy S8.

If you’re in America, you can choose between any of the Big Four and pay anywhere from $35 to $60 a month depending on your carrier of choice, and any additional features like HD streaming. Verizon has the cheapest base plan at $35 a month for 2GB data, and unlimited talk and text, but if you go for its Unlimited plan, which has unlimited data, talk, text, and HD video streaming, prices start at $60 (not counting line pricing). When comparing the Big Four’s Unlimited plans, there’s about a $10 difference between all of them.

Price of basic smartphone plans in the United States

Carrier 
Price
Data
Minutes/Texts
Verizon (S Plan)
$35
2GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
Verizon (Prepaid)
$40
2GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
AT&T (Unlimited Choice Plan)
$60
Unlimited
Unlimited / Unlimited
AT&T (Prepaid)
$30
$5 per 250MB
Unlimited / Unlimited
Sprint (Unlimited Freedom Plan)
$60
Unlimited
Unlimited / Unlimited
Sprint (Prepaid)
$40
3GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
T-Mobile (One Unlimited Plan)
$70
Unlimited
Unlimited / Unlimited
T-Mobile (Prepaid)
$45
4GB
Unlimited / Unlimited

In the UK, there are still a handful of carriers, and their prices cover a wide range. Vodafone, Orange, and Everything & Everywhere (EE) — a collaboration between Orange and T-Mobile — dominate the cellular scene there. All three carriers are cheaper for similar service to each of the four U.S. carriers, ranging from $25 a month for 2GB of data on (EE), to $27 a month (Orange), to $37 a month for 4GB of data (Vodafone).

Orange (in France) sells a wireless plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of data for $27 a month. A major carrier in Spain, Telefónica offers a plan with 3GB of high speed data, unlimited calls, and texting for about $65 a month. That’s not bad, but considering AT&T can do unlimited data, talks, and text for $5 cheaper, Telefonica still has room for improvement.

Let’s not forget about Hong Kong and Japan. In Hong Kong, Hutchinson (also known as ‘Three’) will give you a 2.5GB high speed wireless plan with plenty of minutes for $52 a month. A similar, yet slightly better deal comes from Softbank in Japan, which will charge you $55 for unlimited 3G data and texting, and free calling to other Softbank users and landlines.

Price of basic smartphone plans around the world

Carrier 
Price
Data
Minutes / Texts
Everything & Everywhere (UK)
$25
2GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
Vodafone (UK)
$37
4GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
Telefonica (Spain)
$65
3GB
Unlimited / Unlimited
Orange (France)
$27
2GB
Unlimited/Unlimited
Softbank (Japan)
$55
Unlimited
Unlimited / Unlimited
Hutchinson (Hong Kong)
$52
2.5GB
2500 mins / Unlimited
*Prices converted on 4-20-2017

While we’re just talking about a simple smartphone plan here, the fact remains that just about any plan you can find in Europe, the UK, Hong Kong, or Japan, more than likely has a similar counterpart in the U.S. What international carriers have over American plans, however, are the amount of minutes and data you can get; people have more options if they don’t want to pay more for unlimited.

2-year contracts are (thankfully) a thing of the past

What could you do in two years? While most of us can’t see two weeks ahead, let alone two years, it eventually became a magic number for American carriers to pair with new plans. Until recently, it was plain silly and not in the consumer’s best interest.

Thankfully, 2-year contracts aren’t what they used to be, to the point that the four main carriers in the U.S. have stopped using them. AT&T did away with such contracts last year, and Sprint did the same. Verizon began moving away from them in 2015, and completely removed them in January. T-Mobile started the trend.

Across the Atlantic, many of the biggest mobile operators in Europe and the UK have made similar changes. Once upon a time, carriers would push 1-year contracts, 1.5 year contracts, or offer an incentive of some kind to go for the 2-year lock-in. Now, they offer and emphasize a variety of monthly phone, data, and pay as you go plans, which also leave customers open to upgrading their phones when they get the urge, just like the U.S.

29
Apr

FAA concludes that drones are safer than you may have thought


Why it matters to you

If your instinct is to run away when you see a drone headed toward you, a new FAA report suggests that you may not need to react that way.

Much to drone company DJI’s delight, a new FAA-commissioned report assures us that we have nothing to fear when it comes to drones. The new findings come from the Alliance for Safety System of UAS through Research Excellence, or ASSURE, which concludes that “small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are far more safe to operate around people than earlier models had assumed.” So while that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be flying your quadcopters into your friends’ faces, you don’t have to ensure that they’re behind plexiglass when you’re taking your drone out for a spin.

As per the ASSURE report, which was prepared on behalf of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in order to identify criteria for safe drone operations in the presence of people, today’s drones feature “unique aerodynamic and structural properties that mitigate the force involved in a collision.”

For example, if a DJI Phantom 3 drone were to fall on your head, you’d have a 0.03 percent chance or less of sustaining a head injury. In comparison, if a block of steel or wood with the same weight were to come down on your noggin, you’d have a 99 percent risk of injury. So what’s the difference? The report claims that a DJI drone absorbs much of the energy in the case of a collision, which means less energy is transferred to your head.

“ASSURE’s report is the first thorough scientific study of the risk drones pose to people on the ground, and we are pleased that it validates our own findings that earlier measurement standards grossly overstate the risks of injury from a drone,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs. “ASSURE’s work provides a deeper scientific understanding of the kinetic and aerodynamic factors which make drones far safer than some had thought. We look forward to more detailed research that will ensure drone safety requirements and regulations are based on measurable risk, not on fear, misunderstandings, or outdated standards.”

Dr. Walter Stockwell, DJI’s director of technical standards, echoed these sentiments, noting, “This report represents groundbreaking work to understand how drone impacts would occur in the real world. This will be an important guide as the industry works to make standards for drones that fly over and near people.”




29
Apr

Merriam-Webster lists ‘sheeple’ as a word, cites Apple fanatics as examples


Why it matters to you

Merriam-Webster, which has its finger on the pulse of our language, says Apple fanatics are “sheeple.”

Merriam-Webster understands that its dictionary is a living document, subject to the verbal fashions and colloquialisms of succeeding generations. And as a sign of the times, the respected language source has added the word “sheeple” (a word that our word processor still doesn’t recognize) to the official list of Webster-ordained words. What are sheeple, you ask? Well, as Merriam-Webster would have you believe, they’re Apple fanatics. See? Like we said — a sign of the times.

Let us explain further.

In a recent tweet, the dictionary announced the addition of “sheeple” to its word bank, an informal word defined as “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced” and thereby “likened to sheep.” Now, as dictionaries are wont to do, Merriam-Webster provided some context for the word, placing it in a sentence.

The first one is innocuous enough, reading, “James Nichols, who ran the family farm here, stamped dollar bills with red ink in protest against currency and told his neighbors that they were “sheeple” for obeying authority like livestock.”

But then, Merriam-Webster takes its gloves off and sharpens its claws (or at least, selects a user-submitted sentence that is quite vicious). “Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone — an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for,” a portion of the definition reads. And if you’re interested, this example was submitted by one Doug Criss.

According to Merriam-Webster, which has been cataloging the English language since 1843,  the first use of the word “sheeple” took place in 1945. That was a solid decade before Steve Jobs was even born, and certainly well before any Apple products came about (and elicited great fandom from sheeple everywhere).

So beware, Apple fanatics. You may find yourself the butt of a dictionary joke, but hey, you’ve got your fancy tech products to make you feel better.




29
Apr

How to use Kodi to watch live TV


kodi-tv.jpg?itok=Vzkap-6c

Kodi is a terrific cord-cutting tool, and it’s really simple to watch live TV with it on your favorite Android.

To be clear, this isn’t about watching TV channels delivered over the internet (IPTV) but actual over-the-air (OTA) channels. With the right hardware and matching plugins, adding your OTA TV to the main Kodi interface is a breeze. Android TV can integrate Live TV itself, but if you’re a fan of having everything inside the Kodi interface then this one is for you.

For the purposes of this guide, we’re using a HDHomeRun Connect tuner, but the process is the same for other supported PVR hardware. You also must have set up your hardware first before going into Kodi.

This isn’t the same as just installing an add-on, either. HDHomeRun, for example, has an official Kodi add-on, but that works like a dedicated app. The third-party PVR client built into Kodi, by contrast, integrates the TV channels directly into the main Kodi interface, and there are numerous advantages to using it.

How to enable live TV on Kodi

Click on add-ons in the Kodi sidebar.
Hover over my add-ons in sidebar.

Select PVR clients.

kodi-live-tv-1.jpg?itok=cQzpc9ic

From the list, select the relevant PVR client for your hardware.

kodi-live-tv-2.jpg?itok=QQP5Xit4

Click install.

kodi-live-tv-3.jpg?itok=Er6GAyuG

That’s all you need to do to enable live TV within Kodi. It’s a simple, seamless setup, and now you just have to go back to the main screen and click on the TV menu item in the sidebar.

All of your channels have been pulled into Kodi’s main interface, and it’s pretty damn slick. When you first go into your TV section in Kodi, it’ll pop up a list of channels on the left of the screen with currently playing shows. To see more channels you just scroll.

There’s also a neat TV guide for viewing everything that’s on now and upcoming across your entire channel list. And whenever you’re watching something live, flicking out to the full guide or even just the upcoming guide for that channel never gets rid of what you’re watching. It always fades into the background.

kodi-live-tv-8.jpg?itok=Bjg79cD5

As you watch, recent channels and favorites will begin to populate within the TV section for quicker access. The beauty of this setup is that any device you install Kodi on can integrate live TV in just a few steps using your local network. There’s no additional antenna required.

If you have any tips and tricks for watching live TV on Kodi be sure to drop them into the comments below.

Download Kodi (free)

29
Apr

Digital Offers: Keep all of your devices juiced up for $60


We’ve all been out and about or on a trip where power outlets are scarce and devices are many. At this point, our phones are our connection to the world, and our laptops and tablets are all but a necessity, especially when we travel. If you find yourself running out of battery on all your devices, where do you turn?

Keep all your devices charged for $60 Learn more

You need a reliable external battery bank. These devices have USB ports through which you can charge up your devices, and, in most cases, they can even charge some devices multiple times over. It all depends on the battery’s capacity. If you’re someone who has many devices that require on-the-go charging, then you’ll need a BIG battery bank.

zerolemon-toughjuice-stacksocial.jpg?ito

The ZeroLemon ToughJuice power bank has a 30,000mAh battery and 5 USB ports, one of which is capable of charging your devices at Quick Charge 2.0 speeds. It even has a USB-C port for current devices. The ToughJuice usually retails for around $130, but at Android Central Digital Offers, it’s only $59.99, a savings of 53%.

With 30,000mAh, the power bank can charge your phone around eight times (depending on your phone and usage, your tablet twice (again, depending on your tablet and usage), and your MacBook once (again… depending on your MacBook and usage). This battery bank is compatible with just about every device, and thanks to Android Central Digital Offers, it’s compatible with your wallet too. Keep your devices charged and ready to go, on the go, but don’t spend $130. Grab the ZeroLemon ToughJuice at Android Central Digital Offers for $59.99.

Keep all your devices charged for $60 Learn more

29
Apr

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Life imitating art imitating…life? Netflix’s series about prison is involved in an actual crime, and Elon Musk is going back into the tunnels. We’ll explain.

Or, it’s a very meta ad campaignHackers release most of ‘Orange is the New Black’ season five

OITNB_501_Unit_00162_R_640.jpg

Someone calling themselves TheDarkOverlord tried to secure a ransom from Netflix on Friday. Having obtained a copy of the upcoming OITNB season from a third party audio production company, they first released the premiere episode and eventually, the first ten of 13 episodes. The story is not over, however, as the person or persons claim they have more Netflix, Fox, ABC, IFC and National Geographic content stored away ready to release unless they’re paid.

Even if ‘XLED’ is mostly hypeVizio’s new M-series 4K TVs are its real 2017 highlight

Vizio%2BM%2Bseries%2B2%2B.jpg

We took a look at Vizio’s new 2017 displays and surprise, it looks like yet another year of high picture quality combined with affordable prices. The XLED branding shouldn’t be confused with Samsung’s QLED technology or LG’s OLED, but the use of local dimming in Vizio’s sets is easy to understand. Last year’s tablet remote is gone, replaced with a new setup where the TVs act as both Chromecast source and receiver. Of course, after last year’s FTC fine we’d probably double check the privacy policy before bringing one of these home.

This is happeningMeet Larry Page’s ‘flying car’

youtu.be-mMWh4W1C2PM_640.jpg

The Kitty Hawk Flyer isn’t the flying car we asked for, but it’s the one that will go on sale by the end of this year. The propeller-driven one-seater isn’t cleared for use over populated land, but it might be just right for your second lake house. Any trips of greater significance will have to wait for a flying machine from Google’s other co-founder.

Stop us if you’ve heard this beforeXbox chief envisions a Netflix model for narrative games

DSCF3139-ed_640.jpg

In an interview with The Guardian, Xbox boss Phil Spencer made his pitch for games distributed by subscription service. Moving beyond what we’ve already heard about the upcoming Xbox Game Pass plan, he said “[Subscription services] might spur new story-based games coming to market because there’s a new business model to help support their monetization.” It’s an interesting idea, but so far has very little to back it up — we may hear more at E3 in June.

It just knows.Google’s next trick for Android is ‘copyless pasting’

A look at the code for Android O has revealed a new feature on the way soon. Called “Copyless Paste,” your device will be able to remember information you were just looking at in one app (like a restaurant’s address) and offer it as a suggestion in another (like Maps.)

But wait, there’s more…

  • Elon Musk’s ‘Boring Company’ revealed
  • XPrize winner says its Tricorder is better than ‘Star Trek’
  • Uber’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2017
  • Nomiku wants its sous vide food program to be the ‘iTunes for your mouth.’
  • IBM’s Watson looked into my soul and ‘drew’ my portrait
  • We lived through the history of evolution in VR with ‘Life of Us’
29
Apr

Take to the skies with a DIY racing drone in an aerial Grand Prix


Interested in getting into the drone racing scene, but don’t know how to get started? Not to worry. These days you can build your own rig with relative ease — though it might be a bit daunting if you’re a first-timer. Therefore, to help you hit the ground (or sky?) running, we’ve put together this quick reference guide.

How does drone racing work anyway?

Drone racing is evolving at a fast and furious pace. Miniaturization has allowed a lot of tinkerers and a few manufacturers to build very small, very fast drones that can be outfitted with miniature cameras. Naturally, the first time two of these guys met, it was time to race. Much like Fight Club, the sport quickly got out of hand.

The acronym you’ll quickly come to learn in drone racing is “FPV,” which stands for “First Person View.” That’s because our racers have attached tiny cameras to their drones, which subsequently broadcasts what the drone “sees” to either a screen or, more commonly, to specialized goggles. This allows racers to fly as if they were tiny pilots sitting in the seat of their tiny, frighteningly fast drone. The races occur on predetermined “tracks,” many of which are extremely complex, like the one at last year’s World Drone Prix in Dubai. In fact, the sport kind of resembles Grand Prix Racing — if race cars could fly.

If you intend to compete seriously, you’ll want to do quite a bit of research prior to building your first drone. Much like any other semi-professional sport, drone racing has its own teams, leagues, classes, and rules. There are literally dozens of leagues, including the Drone Racing League, MultiGP for FPV quadcopters only, and FPVRacing.TV. A quick Google search should also turn up like-minded pilots in your area.

Ehang GhostDrone 2.0

In terms of the types of races, there are currently three major classes, although the drone racing community invents new challenges all the time. The first is a time trial: fastest drone wins. The second is a drag race in which racers challenge each other on a straight track over a short distance. This race is less about maneuvering and more about how a pilot manages a drone at speed. The final category is Rotorcross, during which drones race through an obstacle course and the first drone to the finish line wins.

Once you’ve figured out what types of races and whether you want to become a casual or serious racer, you can start thinking about your build.

How much is this going to cost me?

The short answer is more than a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, but less than a motorcycle or car. That said, drone racing is probably not the best hobby for penny pinchers. A solid, league-compliant FPV drone setup will inevitably set you back between $1,000 and $2,000. Drones themselves aren’t that expensive, especially if you buy a ready-to-fly model or a pre-fabricated kit. However, the accompanying peripherals can quickly add up, once you factor in the camera, goggles, a decent radio, batteries, and a charter on top of your quad.

Now, let’s take a look at all the gear you’ll need to build a racing drone. Keep in mind that this is just a jumping-off point. As you learn more, you can explore more detailed hubs like those of DroneEnthusiast.

Essential components

The drone components you choose will likely depend on your level of engineering or tinkering skill. We like the Lumenier QAV250 Mini FPV Carbon Fiber Edition because it’s modular and customizable, which is great if you want augment your drone’s speed and level of control. Regardless, here are the essential components you’ll need to build your own DIY racing drone.

The quadcopter frame: The physical body of the drone needs to be lightweight yet strong enough to hold all the components it needs to carry. These are usually composed of carbon fiber, much like most modern airplanes.

The power distribution system: This is your drone’s “juice,” which connects to a small — albeit, powerful — battery.

The flight controller system: The “brains” that interpret signals from the radio control system and subsequently send commands to the electronic speed controllers, prompting your drone to fly. This also involves the motor and propellers.

The radio control system: The system that sends and receives signals to and from your drone. This includes a radio and a receiver.

The first person view (FPV) system: Allows the drone pilot to “see” from the drone’s point of view, simulating the sensation of actually piloting the drone.

If you don’t buy a pre-made kit, you’ll want to buy a frame that has a good build log online. You can find build logs simply by searching for “racing drone frame” and “build log” online. This will give you a map to follow when creating your first build. You’ll also want to make sure you’re buying motors and propellers that fit your frame, as well as reliable electronic speed controllers.

Additionally, you’ll need to decide which radio frequency is best suited to your drone, as the difference in signal strength between open tracks and obstacle courses can be significant. There are also many types of cameras to consider. Amateurs often think they can simply duct tape a GoPro to their drone, but professional racers know that a wide variety of choices exist, including CCD, CMOS, NTSC, and PAL-based cameras. Such being the case, you may find this lengthy guide to drone cameras useful.

Keep in mind that your quad also needs to be calibrated, meaning you’ll have to tweak the flight controller’s connection to the receiver, configure the throttle threshold, refine the communication protocols, and fine-tune the electronic speed controls.

Safety

Drones in general, and drone racing in particular, have been known to attract controversy. Concerns regarding security, regulation, registration, and restrictions are all still up in the air. Because of this, it’s crucial that all drone pilots learn to fly responsibly so that the hobby doesn’t get shut down. It’s also worth noting that some of our less-tolerant citizens have been known to shoot down drones, so it’s worth keeping abreast of the conversations surrounding drone regulation.

Drone Racing League
Drone Racing League

FPV racing, in particular, has emerged with unique risks compared to traditional remote-controlled aircraft. Given the nature of the camera, the strength of the radio frequency, and the difference when flying from a first-person perspective, it’s easy for a drone to quickly get away from its pilot. That said, bringing along a buddy to act as a second spotter is always a good idea.

It’s also important to remember that much of this technology is new, and sometimes relatively untested. Any system that involves digital processing can result in a lag between commands and execution, so it’s important to always maintain an appropriate distance.

Drone racing is an exciting new hobby, and there’s a ton of information to absorb. Check out RCState’s comprehensive roundup of the racing sites for a start, and have fun doing your research. Much like building a car, crafting the perfect racing drone is a complex task, so don’t rush and really get to know your gear before you start building your perfect racing companion.




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