FPV youngsters appear to be dominating the drone racing scene. Watch any FPV championship event and it is guaranteed that there will be FPV youngsters on the leaderboard. The current world champion isn’t even old enough to celebrate with champagne! Why is it though that FPV youngsters can continuously beat the older members of the FPV community? In this article, I will discuss reaction times, neuroplasticity and other significant factors which give FPV youngsters their edge.
FPV Youngsters and Their Reaction Times
The main advantage that youngsters have over older racers is that they have much faster reaction times. Low reaction times allow racers to gear their flying style towards instinctive manoeuvre rather then predictive manoeuvres. Using a sharp turn as an example, a predictive flyer will know the exact point to turn in whereas an instinctive flier also adjusts their line after the turn in to ensure an optimal racing line. Instinctive flyers are also excellent at recovering when knocked off line as they can quickly adapt to the new situation. Both racing styles can be competitive however a predictive racer usually needs more time to develop their racing lines. Studies have shown that reaction times peak around 23 years which is uncoincidentally near the average formula 1 drivers age.
FPV youngsters are also able to pick up the sport ludicrously fast because of their high neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability for the brains form or reform new connections and to continually develop. High neuroplasticity is common among youngsters and declines with age although never fully stopping. It is quite common for FPV youngsters to reach a professional level within a three-year time period, sometimes even less. It personally took me around two and a half years to reach a skill level where I was able to consistently beat the majority of older FPV club members. Drone racing competitions such as the Drone Championship League are dominated by FPV youngsters.
Even if an FPV youngster decides not to take up the hobby full time, practice time is still plentiful. FPV youngsters in school have up to 16 weeks of holidays per year. In college or university, there is up to 20 weeks of holidays per year. Compared to the average annual leave of a full-time worker, FPV youngsters have significantly more time to practice. This factor also contributes to their fast progression in the hobby. For this reason, I and the other FPV youngsters attending the Australian Nationals have weeks of holidays to practice and refine setups before the event. The only time disadvantage to being in school or university is in the periods of exams or high workload where weekends are re-purposed away from practising in favour of academic excellence.
Like in motor sports, there is also a rising breed of FPV youngsters with full devotion to the sport. These FPV youngsters elect to deter studies or professional careers in favour of focusing full time on racing. For certain FPV youngsters, this has proven effective as their winnings can add up to a sum equalling a professional salary. It is often easier for youngsters to take up the sport full time over older racers as they often have less expenses and debts requiring a yearly salary to manage. The choice to pursue drone racing full time essentially leads to quicker progression up the FPV learning curve. You can read more on the FPV learning curve here.
The main disadvantage that FPV youngsters have is the amount of money they are able to spend on the sport. Budget limitations can force FPV youngsters to use cheaper gear or to have less good quality gear then older pilots. It takes many hours of paper delivering/burger flipping for an FPV youngster to attain a pair of Fatsharks! Most FPV youngsters below the working age get most of their upgrades for Christmas or birthdays. This effectively limits their skill progression once their piloting exceeds their gear. Once an FPV youngster ascertains sponsorship or more frequent upgrades through a supportive family member, their progression can be exponential.
FPV youngsters are undoubtedly dominating the sport. So what can you do if you are being overtaken by all the FPV youngster hot shots at the field? Well, not much is the answer (unless you spend weeks practising the track ahead of time) but if you enjoy the sport then that’s what it is all about. As the hobby expands, there may even be the possibility of introducing senior leagues or handicap tournaments to help level out the playing field.