It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No it’s a drone!

Look in the sky—is it a bird? Is it a plane? No—it’s a drone! Over the weekend, Southern Maryland was host to the inaugural RaceX Maryland International First Person View (FPV) Quad Race and Show.

Hundreds visited St. Mary’s College of Maryland to see these small, high-tech, quadcopters in action. It wasn’t just about flying fast—it was about flying with precision and skill. The obstacle course required the drone pilots to test their expertise by flying over, under, around and through a number of obstacles. Some made it look easy, others had a little trouble navigating through the course. Even those who seemed to be “taking it easy” were truly demonstrating exceptional talent.

Flying one of these small drones requires more than just fancy finger work on the controller. It requires the understanding of how the drone operates—and that comes from a lot of trial and error. You must learn the yaw and throttle and the roll and pitch. You need practice and a lot of patience. It was clear the racers in this weekend’s drone competition have been honing their skills for quite some time.

If you’re not a drone hobbyist, you still had the chance to see exactly what the racers were up against. From a cage on the course, spectators had the opportunity to be right in the middle of the action. Outside of the course, the audience could take a peek inside a pair of virtual reality goggles and see exactly what the operators were seeing as they zipped around the course.

Outside of the race circuit, spectators were treated to a variety of food vendors, cold beverages and live music. For the youngest visitors, there were plenty of STEM-related activities where they could fly homemade rockets, play soccer with a robot, test their math skills and even put together their own electrical circuit board.

The U.S. Army was also on site to give folks a peek at the advances in defensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) technology. Around the world, these unmanned aerial vehicles are giving our Armed Forces an advantage in protecting our country and keeping our troops safe. “The more exposure and education we can provide people will help the industry move forward,” explained Paul Ausley, CEO of Ausley Associates, Inc.—the premier sponsor of the event. Ausley, along with a number of other local UAV companies were excited to share the advances in UAV technology with the community.