Kona Drone Race Team Heads to World Championships

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Drone pilots

Drone pilots at the Hawai‘i State FPV Championships held in Olowalu at the end of June 2016. Courtesy photo.

Hawaii Drone Racing, the Big Island’s local drone racing team, returned home from the Hawai‘i State FPV Championships on Maui after a run-in with fire that postponed the event as well as a bout of bad luck.

The statewide competition was held June 24 and 25 in Olowalu at theMaui Paintball field.

The top five winners qualify for the 2016 US National Drone Racing Championships on Governors Island, New York City in August.

The top 10 winning teams will go on to compete in the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships in October at Kuaola Ranch on O‘ahu, where Jurassic Park was filmed.


The Kona team—Al Sanchez, Aaron Garmon, Aaron Kotaska and Richard Molina—arrived on Maui on Friday, June 23, ahead of the two-day event, in order to get some practice in on the track.

“It was impossible to practice on the actual track beforehand,” said Drone Pilot Sanchez. “So to even the field, the event coordinators created a virtual track that was downloadable and exact to the actual track. This is what we practiced on at home on a drone simulator. This was a great help in working out the flow of the course before actually flying it.”

The official competition began on Saturday.

“Our team was greeted with overwhelming aloha from all the other flyers,” said Richard Molina, drone pilot and Hawaii Drone Racing team leader. “It was a great feeling to finally meet these people in person after months of social media messaging.

Byron Yap, one of the main event coordinators, instructed the teams on the day’s events.


About two hours into the event, “the cries of ‘fire’ began,” said Molina.

Drone pilot Richard Molina the Hawai‘i State FPV Championships. Courtesy photo.

Drone pilot Richard Molina the Hawai‘i State FPV Championships. Courtesy photo.

The local fire and police were called and they responded immediately.

Upon returning to the field, the team was told that the rest of Saturdays scheduled events were cancelled due to fire/water damage and that the course had to be redesigned. This pushed off the official racing until Sunday morning.

The teams used the rest of the day for practice runs on the shortened race course.

Sunday’s check-in was at 7 a.m. with races starting at 8 a.m. sharp.


“With the loss of an entire day, things had to happen pretty quickly to get 50 contestants through on time,” said Molina.


Drone after an ill-fated flight at the Hawai‘i State FPV Championships on Maui. Courtesy photo.

In round one, Molina’s drone crashed and did not finish. After the third turn, Sanchez crashed and did not finish. Garmondid not finish. Kotaska’s drone had a glitch and tripped over on launch and did not finish

But in round two, Kotaska earned first place, edging out Veteran Pilot Jay Von Brimmer.

Aaron Garmon did not finish. Molina experienced glitches with telemetry and did not finishe. Sanchez had a power cable break loose and also did not finish.

“Sadly, due to the delay of an entire day of racing, the team ran out of time and had to leave the event before finishing the rest of the rounds,” said Molina.

However, the Hawaii Drone Racing team will still be heading to the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships on O‘ahu in October.

“We will just not be on the official Hawai‘i state team,” said Molina. “Until then, we will be continuing our ranking within the MultiGP league. We will run time trials once a month to stay competitive with in the rankings.


Ethan Gulnac

Hawai‘i State FPV Championships’ first place winner Ethan Gulnac. Courtesy photo.

Final Results 

  1. Ethan Gulnac
  2. Ian Forbes
  3. Dane Uluwehiokalani Maxwell
  4. Keoni Lee
  5. Nicholas Hayler – Race-off against Gene Lee for tie breaker
  6. Gene Lee
  7. Ephraim David Botulan
  8. Alex Dant
  9. Gabe Hoeffken
  10. Philip Cadiz – Race-off against Keith Barrera

To learn more about this sport or to help support Hawai‘i Island’s race team, contact Molina at (808) 331-8333 or [email protected].


Drone Team Gears Up for State Championships

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