Race fans are preconditioned to enjoy watching things explode into tiny bits. It’s built into their DNA. And while this weekend’s all-electric Formula E race in New York City was unfortunately lacking in high-speed smashups, fans in attendance got to see a much rarer and more spectacular accident: a drone totally biting it on the racetrack.
Drone operators have been drag racing cars for a while now as a way to highlight the acceleration, speed, and agility of these aerial gadgets. So on the surface, a matchup between a Formula E car and the Titan Grand Prix Racing Organization’s GFD1 drone seemed like the perfect way to cap off this weekend’s high-speed extravaganza. The drone-car drag race was billed as a “best out of three” competition, but as you can see, the drone never made it past the first round.
It’s not clear why the GFD1 drone, operated by drone pilots Zachry Thayer and Jordan Temkin of the Titan Grand Prix Racing Organization, crashed so spectacularly — especially after such a promising start. Most Formula E cars can accelerate 0–60 mph in less than three seconds, but that pales in comparison to the latest crop of ultra-lightweight, ultra-fast drones. Last week, a battery-powered quadcopter hit a top speed of 163.5 mph for a new world record.
Back in Brooklyn, the race started out well for the drone. At the starting gun, the UAV was able to accelerate to a huge head start over the Formula E car. According to The Drive, the race consisted of a third of the racetrack, including a perilous hairpin turn. A few seconds later, the drone buzzes back to the starting line, does an ill-fated barrel roll, and crashes into the track. To say the fans watching from the stands were thrilled by the sight of propellors and other drone parts flying through the air would be an understatement.
We’ve reached out to Titan Grand Prix’s sponsors, the Federation of Drone Racing, for comment and will update this piece when we hear back.
Before the race, the drone’s operators were fairly cocky about their chances. “We are so happy to be working with [Federation of Drone Racing] on this,” the owners of Titan Grand Prix said in a press release. “The NYC ePrix is the perfect venue for introducing TGP and the GFD1 to the world. We have enormous respect for the Formula E organization. It's almost a shame the GFD1 will crush this race so hard.”
Of course, the only thing that ended up getting crushed on Sunday was the drone and its owners’ dreams of victory. Rest in pieces, little buzzy.