Tweed man blazes trail in a new drone world order
FOR Tweed Heads man Ross Kerker, the latest phenomenon of drone racing isn’t just a hobby, it’s his whole world and a full-time job.
“I eat, breathe and sleep drone racing,” Mr Kerker said, as he expertly navigates his custom-made drone up to 150kmh through Tweed skies.
Born and bred on the Tweed, the Tweed River High and Bond University graduate is regarded as one of the best – if not the best – drone racers in the country.
The new sport has had Mr Kerker travel the world over the past six years, blazing a trail for his craft after his original plans of working in information technology (IT) took a permanent backseat.
“A guy brought a drone to my 3D helicopter club and it was instantly ‘shut up and take my money’,” Mr Kerker said.
Mr Kerker - referred to in competition by his pilot name rekreK - quickly made his mark, turning his talent into a full-time job as he trekked across the globe, testing his skills against the worlds best.
“I moved to Canada in 2014 and spent a year there with a drone company making micro machines and travelling through the United States,” Mr Kerker said.
“My first big competition was in Sacramento, California in 2015, there was a $25,000 prize pool and I finished 15th out of 125 pilots.”
Mr Kerker is sponsored by Perth-based drone company Bolt RC and has spent around $100,000 in building his war chest of drones and equipment.
He’s part of the invite-only American Racing League, an organisation with US$12 million in funding, flying his drone in such destinations as the Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida, abandoned power plants and an abandoned Los Angeles mall.
He spends up to 30 hours a week training around the Tweed and Gold Coasts and easily doubles that time at the workbench each night, building or fixing drones and equipment in preparation for his next tilt at world domination.
“I’ll be going to the USA Drone Nationals on Liberty Island in New York City in early August and there’s a US$50,000 prize pool,” Mr Kerker said.
“My main goal is to win the Drone World Championships in Hawaii in October, which I’ve already qualified for, but if I finish top five in the Australian Nationals in August, I’ll have my flights and accommodation paid for.
“To me, it’s the biggest thing in the world. It’s still new, which makes it fun, as anything can happen.”