Kyle Ettinger is one of the most feared pilots in the emerging world of drone combat — despite being half the age of most of his rivals.
The 15-year-old picked up his first quadcopter a little more than two years ago, but quickly discovered a passion for battle at a drone fight club that stages regular matches across the San Francisco Bay Area. The tournaments are organized by the drone sporting companies Aerial Sports League and Game of Drones, which now sponsors Ettinger.
He has worked with his father, Silicon Valley engineer Gary Ettinger, to design and construct a series of drones customized for combat. The growing fleet now takes up the better part of the family’s Cupertino, Calif., garage.
In late spring, the Ettingers arrived at Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif., to compete in the league’s biggest tournament to date, equipped with one of their latest designs. The “Carbon Crasher” is surrounded by a sphere of carbon fiber rods to protect its propellers and equipped with a hook designed to flip competitors out of control.