ADAM KARNKOWSKI

Age: 30 Lo­ca­tion: Texas, US Back­ground: Aerial con­struc­tion worker

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In my day job I work as a drone op­er­a­tor for a con­struc­tion com­pany. I use drones to in­spect roofs that are too danger­ous to climb and cre­ate videos of dif­fer­ent phases of build­ing projects to present to fu­ture clients.

The drones I use at work are very dif­fer­ent from my rac­ing drones. My work drones are de­signed to be in­cred­i­bly sta­ble and in­tel­li­gent enough to fly them­selves while tak­ing high­qual­ity pic­tures. In com­par­i­son, my rac­ing drones are much smaller, faster and more un­sta­ble, mak­ing them ideal for high-speed ma­noeu­vres. I com­pare my work drones to air­lin­ers and my rac­ing drones to fighter jets.

I started play­ing with re­mote con­trol toys when I was about five-years-old. My dad used to fly re­mote con­trol air­planes com­pet­i­tively in Europe.

In col­lege I was very pas­sion­ate about fly­ing air­planes, but I missed the so­cial and com­pet­i­tive as­pect of the hobby, so I switched to re­mote con­trol cars which I raced at lo­cal get-to­geth­ers with hob­by­ists. Then, one day I came across a video of drone rac­ing on YouTube – and it blew my mind.

As soon as I was able to fly a drone half-de­cently I wanted to start rac­ing. At first it was just two guys fly­ing in the park with home­made gates [ob­sta­cles]. As we got bet­ter, and drone rac­ing be­came more pop­u­lar, more peo­ple started show­ing up to our races. That was about two years ago and I had no idea how huge this sport would be­come.

I fly six days a week af­ter work and at lunchtime. I’m lucky to have friends that are equally pas­sion­ate about drone rac­ing as my­self, so we get to­gether on week­ends and put pres­sure on each other. My day job def­i­nitely helps when I’m de­sign­ing my own tracks. I al­ways try to use the fea­tures of the en­vi­ron­ment that we’re prac­tis­ing in, whether it’s a park, aban­doned ware­house or a garage.

In Dal­las there’s an aban­doned ware­house that we’ve con­verted into a per­ma­nent drone rac­ing track. The ware­house has very post-apoc­a­lyp­tic scenery with many op­por­tu­ni­ties [for] crash­ing and smash­ing our drones into pieces. But, part of the thrill is the sense of con­se­quence of fly­ing in a place that risky. Com­plet­ing a full bat­tery on a track like that with­out a crash is very satisfying.

I’m orig­i­nally from Poland, where drone rac­ing is very pop­u­lar. I’m con­fi­dent the sport will be­come a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. There are kids that are only 10-years-old who are pro­gress­ing so quickly they’ll soon be much bet­ter than me. You watch! >

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