Dreams can become true. It takes work, a lot of hard work, and people capable of materializing an idea. This is the case of Juan Antonio Rioboó, who one day had the dream of creating a professional team of racing drones and today is a reality. It’s called Spain Drone Team.
We spoke with Juan Antonio Rioboo and Adrián López (Adrilh), Team Manager and pilot of the Spain Drone Team respectively.
Interview: Rory Williamson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Why did you decide to set up the first Spanish professional team of racing drones?
Juan Antonio Rioboó: The truth is that I did not decide it, it was something that arose. It was the result of uniting the wishes of many people who already knew us to stay to fly and events. After the FPV Racing España of El Escorial in the summer of 2016, I saw that there was a group of pilots who had a lot of potential and I talked to them about the possibility of organizing a professional team. The idea was taking form in Ibiza, where those same pilots participated in the European final. They liked the idea and we decided that we would all roam in the same direction. It is a group of people with a lot of potential and I am sure that something important can be done in Europe.
TDP: What made you start in this world?
JAR: I started with professional drones and then, because of the friendship with a teammate who is a race driver, I learned everything about the racing drones. Also thanks to people like Richard Vinuesa who introduced me to the world of high competition at European level by ERSA. However, and although I like to pilot, I am aware that my level is what it is. Therefore, I have clear that my place in the team is the organizational.
JAR: Predicting quality to friendship. Everyone knew about it before, but if you want to make a professional team what you have to look for are results, you do not have friendships with pilots or others, above all they have to be good. And to know who is good and who is better there is no choice but to have the results in hand. I’m not worth it, I go to the field and I do some phenomenal videos, if you want to get into competition logically the selection is done based on results.
Where would you like to go with this equipment?
JAR: It’s a very good group, they’re very good people and the goal now is to compete. We are ready to participate in the best events in Europe. It is a very powerful group of pilots and is already beginning to be recognized at European level
JAR: To this day, as far as I know, no. There are many groups, there are many pilots, but really a team sponsored by brands such as those sponsoring the Spain Drone Team and competing at professional level outside and within Spain, no. We are the first.
And in the rest of Europe?
JAR: For Europe there is, I think in France there are currently two professional teams, but that’s what I tell you, there are many pilots, professional teams are now creating, brands are watching and selecting high level drivers.
When will we see drone races on television?
JAR: I hope it’s this year. In Europe hopefully this year. In the United States, they always get ahead in this kind of thing, and they are already doing it.
In a sport as new as this and so little known. How did you get the sponsors for the Spain Drone team?
JAR: Moving a lot! And logically having a good team. As much as you want to sell a sponsor to the idea, without good drivers will not bet on the project. I think the main thing is to have a good team, both manager and competition. And we have it.
When did you decide to become a racing drone pilot? And why?
Adrilh: I started with my brother Miguel three years ago with planes that had FPV (Firts person View) system, which is the main characteristic of the racing drones. Then came the multirole but large size, 450mm diagonal. When the microdrones came out we started to fly between trees, between buildings and already when the race started, we already saw that it was very funny. As I always flew with my brother we competed between us. We did not have to have a circuit. We had fun and competed for simple pleasure. We just wanted to have fun.
When did you fly a dron for the first time and did you feel it?
Adrilh: I think it will be two years or so. Above all I would highlight the feeling of flying while sitting, but your eyes see that you are flying. It is a very good feeling. Besides, I like the free style very much and when you are going to fly to a new place you always try to find the landscape with you. You feel a sense of freedom and you stop thinking about everything else. You forget problems and work. You concentrate on flying and enjoying.
Do you train a lot ?
Adrilh: Not really. During the week I do not have much free time and also now in winter with the few hours of sun that there is difficult to find a hollow to leave to fly. I train every weekend that I can and when the weather permits.
TDP: Do you think drone pilots can or can live off this?
Adril: I think so. There will be pilots who will live well on account of this, others will instead have their work and can win something with the drones. Something similar will happen to what happens to many second-division football players, who many will have their work apart from soccer. We will have to see how the sport of the race evolves and see, for example, how the retransmissions of this sport on television. Right now, money is advertising. And the main route would be television.
How many drones have you loaded until you’ve reached the current level of piloting? … I imagine many!
Adrilh: I would not know exactly. My brother and I are dedicated to design the frames and do not usually break. Then there are the spare parts. We design, assemble and improve everything we can race if we see a weak point. The propellers are what breaks the most. Luckily they are very economical. Usually the whole dron is very difficult to break it, almost impossible. Parts break but you change them and that’s it.
Adrilh: It’s like in all sports, you can always start with something very basic and from there go pulling up. If you want something basic to do FPV there are toys for 50 or 60 euros that you handle with the mobile. If you want something in conditions would be about 1,500 euros approximately. The most expensive are the FPV glasses that are about 500 euros, and the station that walks for about 300 euros. Only in those two things you have already left about 800 euros but since they are components that do not take risks when flying you always have them for you. A gift in conditions could cost about 400 or 500 euros.
How was your experience in the Ibiza final?
Adrilh: Personally very well. I managed to qualify in the 64 best and reach the quarterfinals, but unfortunately the Ibiza final was marked by the tornado disaster that devastated the circuit and left the competition somewhat blurred. The important thing was to share an unforgettable experience with the rest of our partners and pilots from Spain and Europe.
What does this sport have for you?
Adrilh: Especially to be with friends, to meet people, to learn new things. It’s all about being with people with whom you share a passion. If I were only competing to compete I would not like to, although of course the adrenaline and will to overcome that provokes a competition is also very important.
What special qualities should a good racing drone pilot have?
Adrilh: Above all reflexes and have good muscle memory. I for example have seen very good drivers like Luke Bannister who make two laps to any circuit and I believe that closing their eyes could nail it. They have in their memory the exact movements they have to make and they do not fly so much through sight but memorizing movements. If at some point you lose a little the video signal does not affect you so much and it is like a choreography of acrobatics. It is also very important to know the dron well. You always have more advantage if the dron you have mounted and you know every detail of the dron that you pilot because you know your machine.
What level do the Spanish drivers have?
Adrilh: I think there’s a lot of middle ground. And if we talk about high level, not so much. There are people who are very good at flying but at the time of going to competition or gets nervous or not controlling so much. Maybe he is very good flying in his usual zones but then it is difficult for him to adapt to a new circuit and it costs them more to fly under pressure. I think that this year will increase the level of the drivers because I see more and more people and more fans for this new sport.
Spain Drone Team (Drivers)