PICKERING Brook isn’t a place you’d reasonably associate with one of the fastest growing racing sports in the world.
Thanks to a suggestion by the City of Kalamunda, however, Pickering Brook Sporting Club is now the proud home of drone pilots across the metropolitan area.
As they gear up for the 2018 National Championships – to be held in Fremantle later this year – Rotorcross WA members are honing their skills at PBSC in preparation for the State Qualifiers.
Competitors use a headset, wirelessly connected to a camera mounted on the drone, that lets the pilot take a first-person view to navigate the drone across a course at terrific speed.
The partnership between PBSC and Rotorcross WA is unique in the Australian competitive drone racing market, according to Rotorcross WA president and Forrestfield resident Hans Boehm.
“We’re the only club in Australia with a dedicated home ground thanks to our partnership with PBSC,” he said.
“Basically, if you’re a member of Rotorcross WA you’re also a member of PBSC, and we’ve got about 55, 60 members, and that gives you access to this ground, all you need to do is call up and book a time, and you have a dedicated place to race and practice.”
That partnership had its genesis two years ago, when drone racing was first emerging in Perth.
“We started getting some media attention, because we were practicing in parks and reserves to hone our skills.
“We pretty quickly found out that Civil Aviation Safety Authority laws and local council laws didn’t allow us to actually do this, so we started to hunt for a home ground.
“We visited a number of councils and nobody was interested.
“As it turns out the City of Kalamunda actually contacted us and asked us to contact PBSC, we met with their committee, and it ran from there.
“All our members are their members as well and we’ve been here for about two years.”
One of those members is Mick Maus, who every week makes the 120-kilometre round trip from Kinross in the North to Pickering Brook to practice his skills.
He says Rotorcross WA have a luxury that should be the envy of drone clubs across Australia.
“These facilities are fantastic and what the City of Kalamunda and Pickering Brook Sporting Club have done for us is fantastic,” he said.
“We can come down here and practice basically at any time and there’s no one walking their dog, there’s no chance of anyone accidentally getting hit by an out-of-control drone, it’s just a safe space for everyone and my understanding is very, very few clubs in Australia, if any, have that luxury.
“When I turned 40 my partner got me a tutorial flight to fly a helicopter and I absolutely loved it but the cost is just so prohibitive, it’s like $35,000 just to get your opening license.
“I looked around for a bit, found drone racing and Rotorcross WA. I started as a rookie, went to pilot class and now I’m pro class.”
Drone racing is big business in the US, with major sponsors such as Mountain Dew and recent signing, the US Air Force.
The Australian competition isn’t yet at that level, however Mr Boehn is hopeful it will soon meet that level.
“Locally trying to get traction is a bit harder, but Mission foods have recently come on board, and they’ve put forward prize money for each state to have their own qualifier, so the State qualifiers is a massive deal for us.”
Kalamunda Mayor John Giardina said he was looking forward to the upcoming State qualifiers.
“The State Qualifiers will be an exciting spectacle and chance for everyone to check out this up and coming sport based here in the Perth Hills,” he said.