EPPING — Drone racing is a growing sport, but this weekend racers will try something they’ve never done before: drone drag racing.
Racing a drone across a drag strip at speeds of up to 140 mph is a new feature at this weekend’s Seacoast Extreme Country Fair.
The fair, which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday at New England Dragway, is about as extreme as it gets, with everything from rodeo events featuring professional bull riding and barrel racing with horses to freestyle motocross shows with bikes soaring through the air, and for the first time, drone drags.
“Nobody’s ever done drone drag racing. I’ve kind of invented it. I asked them, ‘Hey guys, have you ever done drag racing?’ They thought I was crazy,” said Kenny Churchill, a former professional bull rider from York, Maine, who organized the first fair last year and after it was met with success decided to do it again.
Churchill wanted to add more stuff, which is why he recruited members of North East Racing Drones to show off their sport.
The drones will compete in obstacle course races and on Saturday night will hover just above the drag strip as their pilots fly them to the end, turn around, and race them back to a crash net.
Jason McCarthy of Amesbury, Mass., is the organizer of the 72-member drone racing club.
The pilots fly the drones by wearing special goggles that give them a view as if they’re sitting in the cockpit. Spectators will also be allowed to wear goggles to “ride” along with the pilots as their drones maneuver the racing course.
While their drones can typically race at about 100 mph, McCarthy said some pilots created drones specifically for Saturday night’s drag race that will fly up to 140 mph as they race in pairs.
“We’ll try to make it look as much like a drag race as possible,” he said.
McCarthy said his club is hoping the sport will continue to gain in popularity.
“We want to grow the hobby, support the hobby and get more people interested. It’s a new and rising sport. It’s a technology-based sport,” he said.
Michael Gosselin of Strafford began flying a racing drone three years ago and will compete at the fair.
“When I’m flying I’m not thinking about anything else. If you have a hard day, you throw on your goggles and put a battery on,” he said.
While they were flying drones Thursday afternoon, Teigin McLaughlin, 13, of Auburn was getting ready to compete in a barrel race through the New Hampshire chapter of the National Barrel Horse Association.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event involving riders racing around barrels in a cloverleaf pattern as quickly as they can.
“It’s very difficult. You’ve got to control the horse, keep your mind where it’s supposed to be and keep your horse where it’s supposed to be, especially if your horse doesn’t want to listen,” she said.
A four-time championship bull rider, Churchill said the bull riding and barrel racing were popular rodeo events last year, but he wanted a fair with something for everyone.
The fair also includes traditional amusement rides, food, live country music, barbecues, 603 Diesels truck and car show, hot air balloon rides, country line dancing, a saloon, children’s petting zoo, monster trucks
“I’ve been doing rodeos my whole life and I always wanted to see what it would be like to do a fair,” he said.
More information on the fair can be found at www.seacoastextremecountryfair.com