Racing Rules






Publish Date: June 12, 2015


 The following rules and regulations are currently only a draft working copy as of the date listed above and are subject to change. There is an international working committee that is helping to both design the course and the surrounding event and flight rules and regulations. The results of these efforts will be used to form the final version 1.0 of the operational rules and regulations for the US National Drone Racing Championships. These rules will be the basis for further national competitions in the future and the basis for other competitions internationally. It is the intent of the working committee to help shape, form and participate in a world standard set of FPV racing rules and regulations, and these rule sets are our contribution to that cause.

Event Definition

The US National Drone Racing Championships is considered an amateur and sport enthusiast competitive event, as defined by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). This event will follow the general rules and regulations of typical amateur competitions and airshows. The event is sanctioned by the AMA and will expressly follow the rules and regulations of a sanctioned Competitive Sporting event as well as the general AMA rules.

All stakeholders, including the organizing company, the site location and venue, sponsors and participants must have acceptable and adequate insurance polices (General Liability and Aviation/Event Specific) in place before participating in any aspect of the event. These polices have been defined with the various contracts and agreements executed between the organizers and their insurers.

Definition of Terms

  • DNS: Did Not Start
  • DNF: Did Not Finish
  • DQ: Disqualified
  • OOB: Out of Bounds

 General Piloting Rules

  • All U.S. and international pilots must have a current AMA license and adhere to all AMA rules and regulations of safe airframe operation and flight. AMA has a reciprocal agreement with MAAC in Canada. A MAAC card is all a Canadian would need. Any other non-US resident (even a Canadian non-MAAC member) can join AMA as an Affiliate member.  If joining prior to the event the individual will need to call AMA membership. Affiliate memberships cannot be purchased online but the pilot can register at the event. AMA’s liability protection for Affiliate members is only in effect while flying in the US. An Affiliate membership is $28.
  • All pilots must adhere to any applicable FAA regulations and other special event notifications, restrictions or regulations established for the event.
  • All pilots have to attend a general safety briefing and sign the appropriate waivers from the race organizer and venue.
  • All pilots must demonstrate effective Fail-Safe procedures defined by the Field Marshall and Flight Director. In most cases this is a “Power Down, no pulse” method, where the aircraft will immediately cease flight by stopping all motors and operation if it loses contact with the radio transmitter. This method has been used effectively for many years and is now a common standard practice.
  • All pilots must have an “ARMING” position switch or sequence on their radio. The aircraft should not power up by any accidental controls from the radio. Aircraft arming may be executed by a specific switch on the radio, or by a sequence (i.e. yaw right) to actively arm the radio.
  • All pilots must demonstrate an air-worthy airframe and pass a general mechanics, electronic and video test.
  • All pilots must demonstrate basic piloting skills (could include Line of Sight tests) and must successfully fly a controlled flight around the course within a certain amount of time exhibiting the ability to pilot and navigate their airframe through all obstacles.
  • All batteries must be transported and stored in LIPO-safe bags or an approved fire resistant container.
  • Pilots must use FPV to pilot aircraft. This can be Goggles or a ground station LCD type display.
  • Pilots are required to have an authorized Timing System Transponder emitter properly installed on their airframe for all official lap timing purposes.

Venue Operations

  • Pilots must adhere to all rules within the competition venue, and will not fly in any other part of the venue unless it is a designated flight zone.
  • Pilots must contain all equipment, airframes within the pilot pit area and must not solder, weld or cause any spark within the pit area. There are established workbench areas for soldering, repairs and modifications.
  • A charging station with high quality LiPO balance chargers will be provided for all pilots.
  • Charging for general charging of electronic devices including radios or any device with a self-contained power supply is permitted and power strips will be provided.
  • All batteries must be stored in a LIPO-safe bag or in an approved fire resistant container.

Racing Category General Information

We are racing in the newly defined “California Style” race format, which is a slightly smaller course designed to test both speed and agility skills. Currently we have 3 categories of competitions.

  • California Speed Agility Course (Ladder style competition): Obstacle Course, featuring various obstacles, gates and flags. This course will offer under/over obstacles, funnel gates, hairpin turns, slalom, and Joker Lap opportunities.
  • Invitational Free Style Competition (please contact us if you would like to be extended an invitation. You must be able to prove an advanced level piloting proficiency with submission video.)
  • Team Sport. Teams of five (5) pilots grouped into a team are judged upon a cumulative team time and an additional wild-card metric to be defined before the race. Pilots may only compete in the team competition with one team.

Judging and Field Marshaling

  • All races will be governed by our judging committee
  • This is sanctioned AMA event and will follow the general rules and regulations of amateur competition.
  • Each race will be monitored by judges, via FPV of the pilot’s video feed, (either goggles or display) cameras, timing/lap systems and field marshals to maintain fair and accurate competition.
  • The Field Marshall has the executive decision
  • Any practice or behavior that deemed unsafe, (i.e. flying above the max ceiling) will result in an immediate disqualification.

Airframe General Guidelines

The 2015 classifications are designed to be loosely defined in order to promote innovation in new configurations, materials, motors and prop variations.  Currently there is only one class category defined for the 2015 event, which is the “250 Class” size airframe. There are no minimums defined at this point, only the maximum:

  • 250 Class multirotor (3, 4 or 6 motors)
  • Maximum Frame size under 330mm motor to motor
  • 4S maximum LIPO battery
  • 6″ Maximum propeller size, 5” in the case of 3 bladed propellers
  • Must use official video transmitters provided by the event organizers.
  • All airframes must pass a safety and air-worthiness inspection. Once the airframe has been checked and approved, it must not be modified or changed, or it will need to be re-inspected. Airframes should be repaired with equivalent parts that were originally used during check-in. The inspector has the final decision on whether an airframe is accepted, and or requires changes or modifications in order to be approved for racing.

Field, Course and Venue Operations

The Field is explicitly controlled by the event’s Flight Director and the Field Marshal. Either official has the ability to disqualify any pilot for any reason, and has the ability to stop a race or flight at any time for any reason.

  • The field and the venue are governed by the venue’s Fire, Security and Police Marshals.
  • The field is a restricted grounds and airspace and only authorized personnel are allowed on the flying grounds.
  • All flights are grounded while there are personnel actively on the field.
  • All personnel must wear protective headgear, safety glasses and a high visibility vest.
  • Personnel engaged in active recovery of any airframe must wear high tensile gloves, and must immediately remove all battery power from the aircraft upon contact.
  • Depending upon the field size, the field must have at least 4 fire extinguishers on the sidelines, with two basic first aid kits ready to be immediately deployed.
  • Metal covers (such as a trash can lid) should be available for all Drone Recovery crews to use as a shield if other retrieval methods are unsuccessful.
  • A First Aid station is to be located in the Pilot Pit area or an area that is easily and conveniently accessible to the active piloting areas of the event.
  • An EMT Station should be located within the immediate vicinity of the field, as defined by the venue’s first aid policies.
  • Event organizers must have 2-way radios with a specific channel designated for flight operations and first-aid/emergency communications. All directors (operations, flight, judging) must have access to a radio. It is highly recommended that any airframe recovery personnel on the field also have a radio.
  • Drone recovery crews must not enter the field until all aircraft have landed. Drone recovery crews must expediently remove all airframe parts, components and various debris from the field and do a quick analysis of the airframe to see if all parts have been retrieved. If an airframe is still powered and props are spinning, they must try to safely indicate via hand signals through the pilot camera the Thumbs Down signal to indicate to the pilot to power down their aircraft. In all cases do not attempt to handle an aircraft that has motors engaged, spinning or is on fire. Use the metal plate in order to cover the craft and attempt to neutralize.

Official Course Dimensions and Boundaries

  • Course should be contained within an established format, i.e. soccer field, football field or other suitable field.
  • Flight path should have a safety buffer zone with a minimum of 10 yards from any spectator or building area to reduce the amount of energy force and impact to the netting.
  • Course designs should take into consideration flight and energy direction. Flight paths should not direct 100% energy force of the airframe directly at the audience unless there is substantial distance and barriers to protect the audience. Accidents, yaw spinouts and other impacts that cause the aircraft to alter from its flight path should be considered and implemented into the design.
  • If spectators are allowed for viewing purposes, there must be netting 30’ high (or as high as necessary to cover the front of a structure that provides an alternate natural barrier) with a min 3’ buffer on each side for impact recovery. Spectators must not stand within 3’ of the netting.
  • Netting must be high tensile weave, with a 1 ¾” weave (either square or diamond). This is to ensure there are multiple catch points in case one of the squares is breached by the impact.

Course Timing Systems

The US Drone Nationals uses a timing system to officially track the time of each pilot throughout the races. Each pilot must rent or purchase a compatible timing emitter with a unique ID and properly install it on the airframe that is to be raced.

  • Emitter is powered via a 3-pin standard servo type connector for power (5v) For example, an unused channel on a control receiver can be used or an unused motor output on a flight controller. The emitter should be powered by a connector instead of direct solder connection for easy removal and positioning on another aircraft.
  • IR emitter must point horizontally outwards towards the starboard side on the airframe. The sensors will be mounted vertically along the right side of the Start/Finish Gate.
  • Each pilot is responsible for mounting the emitter in a location conducive to 100% successful triggers. (i.e. don’t accidentally block it with a Velcro strap) The mounting location will be inspected during check in for optimum placement.
  • Emitters should be mounted securely to the airframe in a location that will not easily be damaged in a crash. Typically this is on the top of the airframe.
  • Pilot is responsible for the safe powering of the emitter, and failed triggers due to improper operation, overpowering, overheating, improper mounting or failed trigger is the complete responsibility of the pilot.
  • Any failed non-triggers are the responsibility of the pilot, and any judgments for manually adding times or adjustments are at the sole discretion of the Field Marshal.

Flight Deck Race Count-down Procedures

The US Nationals will use a four-stage process for all racing heats. Each stage is designed to check for the various conditions, prepare video transmitters and have all pilots organized and ready for racing. Each stage is staffed by a specialist who will review each pilot and airframe. All heats and pilots will proceed together through each stage. Each heat will be 7 minutes in duration. The stages are as follows:

Stage 4 (21 minutes from flight): Pre-flight air-worthiness check. All airframes will be checked for valid seals and marks from initial safety checks. If they are not present, the pilot must go through the safety check and receive a new seal or mark. At this time all cables, connectors, props and electronics will be checked by the Stage specialist.

Stage 3 (14 minutes from flight): Pilots will be assigned a race position and receive their video transmitter to attach to the airframe. All cables should be connected and the video transmitter velcroed to the airframe. The aircraft should not be powered up at this time. LED lights should also be switched to the appropriate color.

Stage 2 (7 minutes from flight): Pilots will hand over their airframe to their spotter and the spotter will take it to the start/finish cue to await the next heat. Pilots may power up their goggles or displays but may not power up their radio at this time.

Stage 1 (On Flight Deck): Pilots will proceed to their assigned seat in the Flight Deck and power up their radio. Spotters will power up the airframe, check their video feed. The spotter will show by the number of fingers in front of the pilot camera to confirm successful and correct video feed. The pilot must give a “Thumbs Up” to the Flight Director when they have successfully powered up and have the correct video feed. Pilots must not arm until directed by the Flight Director.

Once all pilots have given the Thumbs Up sign, the Flight Director will commence the race start count down. It will proceed as follows:

  • Pilots Arm your aircraft
  • Pilots at the Ready
  • Count down 3, 2, 1, Airhorn blast.
  • Airhorn short blast will signal commencement of the race.
  • At the discretion of the Flight Director or Field Marshal, the race may be stopped at any time. If this occurs, pilots will be instructed by the Flight Director and must follow any procedures prescribed.

Course Rules of Engagement

  • Pilots must stay within all prescribed flight paths.
  • Pilots must keep all aircraft in the disarmed state until they have been given the “ARM” signal from the Flight Director. This will happen only when the aircraft has been placed on the starting deck and all field staff have left the area.
  • Pilots must adhere to the prescribed launch sequence. No movement before the starting signal. False starts will incur a penalty at the discretion of the Field Marshal or Flight Director. Most standard penalties will be pre-defined before the start of the race and posted. Generally they are defined as:
    • False Start penalty: 5 seconds
    • Not following flight path: 5 seconds
    • Flying in opposite direction of flight path direction: 5 seconds
    • Deliberately attacking or crashing into opponent: 5~10 seconds depending upon severity
    • Other minor infractions as deemed by the Field Marshal or Flight Director
  • Pilots must maintain control of their aircraft at all times and only fly within their skill level. Any pilot who exhibits unsafe flying procedures may be disqualified at any time at the discretion of the Field Marshal or Flight Director.
  • Once pilots have successfully completed all laps, they must return to the start/finish pad, land and DISARM. Pilots must give the Flight Director a “THUMBS UP” that they have completed their flight.
  • Pilots that have crashed at any point during the heat and are unable to resume racing must DISARM their aircraft, give the Flight Director a “Thumbs Down” indication and wait until the heat is over. The airframe will be recovered by the field crew.
  • Pilots must successfully fly through all gates, flags, and other obstacles on the course. If a pilot misses an obstacle, they must safely turn around and attempt the obstacle again. They will have up to two further attempts before being disqualified from the heat. Judges will ride along via FPV with the pilot, and will indicate immediate to the pilot if they must correct any flight path errors. Additionally, the Field Marshal and field observer judges may signal to the Flight Director that an obstacle has been missed. In this case the pilot must immediately and safely return to the missed obstacle and attempt to successfully navigate it.
  • Maximum Ceiling height for this event is 40 feet (12m). Any breach of the ceiling will result in immediate disqualification from that heat. If the pilot receives two breaches of the ceiling height or goes out of bounds at any time during the event the pilot will be completely disqualified from the event. If a pilot has breached the ceiling or has gone out of bounds, the pilot must immediately land your aircraft in a safe location on the field. The FPV Judge, Field Marshal or Flight Director will give further instructions.
  • In the event of a crash or the inability to resume flight safely, the pilot must immediately DISARM their aircraft and give the Thumbs down signal.
  • The field staff may use various hand signals in the front of the pilot’s camera to indicate air-worthiness status to the pilot. Thumbs up means the pilot is pre-cleared for flight. Thumbs down means the craft is damaged and is not able to fly. In all cases if you see field staff in the First Person View pilot camera, you must disarm and wait for further instructions.
  • Pilots may have multiple airframes, and each airframe must pass all safety and air-worthiness checks before flying.
  • The Field Marshal has the right to disqualify any pilot for any reason if the pilot or piloting behavior is deemed unsafe or if the pilot has breached any rule or regulation within this document.

Emergency or Fail-Safe Procedures

  • Should a pilot lose control of their aircraft, the pilot must attempt a safe landing, fly into a prescribed crash ‘catch’ zone net, cut throttle in a safe area or execute a failsafe procedure in a safe area.
  • If a pilot loses video, they must immediately execute a fail-safe procedure and or attempt to land the aircraft via Line of Sight. All spotters must assist pilot in determining the location of your aircraft.
  • Spotters must maintain visual line of sight of the corresponding pilot’s airframe at all times and must provide verbal directions or situational awareness details to the pilot. If the aircraft breaches the max ceiling height or goes out of bounds, a judge will indicate to the pilot the infraction and the spotter must immediately assist the pilot in maintaining control and safely land the aircraft.

Course Competition Stages

Practice: Pilots may practice at the designated practice fields before the event. All practice runs may be timed but will not count towards time trial qualifying runs. It time permits, pilots will be able to have one practice round before the commencement of the time trials on the first official day of the races.

Time Trials: Each competitor can attempt to fly the course two times, with the best time being their qualifying time. If the pilot does not complete the course because of a mishap on the course, or is unable to complete all the obstacles successfully within the two attempts and has not received a warning for any infraction, they will be eligible for finals qualification, and will be ranked by random order instead of time.

Finals: By using the time trials as an initial seed for the ranking order, each pilot will be ranked in order of time, then randomly for any pilot that received a DNF. Initial heat groupings will be selected by a typical ladder system and pilots will progress through the ladders to the semi-finals, finals and championships.


The rules and regulations for the Inaugural US National Drone Racing Championships are being developed through the kind assistance and counsel of many individuals, groups and leagues. It is our hope that these rule sets help guide and act as a solid case study for other nations to use as a base racing regulation format. It is anticipated that this will then contribute to and help define the international Drone or FPV racing rules and regulations used by other bodies like CIAM/FAI, international FPV racing leagues and such.