MultiGP International Open 2021

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the competition

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2021 MultiGP International Open

Bonus Video

a pilot competes in musical quads
A pilot competes in Musical Quads at the Freestyle track.
volunteer michelle brooks checks in pilots
Volunteer Michelle Brooks checks in pilots for the age 40 and older race.

"Without volunteers, we’d just have to go home." A Toshiba retiree, a FedEx driver, the mother of a young competitor, and brothers who do everything together—these people and many other volunteers are the ones who make the MultiGP International Open a success each year. As Chris Thomas, the MultiGP founder, stated, the contest couldn’t take place without the volunteers.

Approximately 30 volunteers helped plan the August 11-15, 2021, event, design and set up tracks, run the scoring system, check in pilots, troubleshoot technical issues, retrieve lost quadcopters, treat injured competitors, and complete numerous other behind-the-scenes tasks. Some came to the International Aeromodeling Center (IAC), in Muncie, Indiana, long before the competitors arrived, and others stayed after most had begun to travel home. Many of the volunteers do it not for a pat on the back or a free T-shirt, but because they enjoy it.

chris thomas the multigp founder inspects quadcopters
Chris Thomas, the MultiGP founder, inspects quadcopters that are ready to be launched at the World Cup 1 track.
matt flack emcees the musical quads
Matt Flack emcees the Musical Quads contest at the Freestyle track. He and his friend, Matt King, participate in Freestyle events in Kansas City and decided to volunteer for the MultiGP International Open this year. Matt King is the president of the Kansas City Multi- Rotor club and Matt Flack is the group’s treasurer.
quads take off to do practice runs
Quads take off to do practice runs before the World Cup finals.

"I like to help make sure that everything is running smoothly for all of the pilots. My job is to help as many pilots as possible and have fun," stated Mark Grohe, who was in charge of the track designs for the 2021 event.

On the first day of the gathering, Mark said that he had been working on track setups for two days. In his spare time that day, he was flying in the age 40 and older race at the Intermediate track. "I design the tracks in VelociDrone and translate them to the [physical tracks]. Sometimes we have to tweak them on the fly," he said of the various tracks. When not volunteering for MultiGP, Mark is a FedEx delivery driver and runs his own company, 2DogRC.

volunteer paul adkins braves the summer
Volunteer Paul Adkins braves the summer heat to run the flightline at the World Cup 1 track. Photo by Matt Ruddick.
michael oliver wraps a pilots finger
Michael Oliver wraps a pilot’s finger after it was cut by a propeller at the World Cup track. Michael, a certified first responder and MultiGP volunteer, brings his medical kit to the MultiGP International Open each year to treat injured competitors.
diane booher and kelara ehfad
(L-R): Diane Booher and Kelara Ehfad are interviewed by Sarah Jones of WTHR Channel 13 (the Indianapolis NBC affiliate) to announce the launch of the Women MultiGP Drone Racing League. Kelara said the goal is to encourage more women to get involved in drone racing.

Helping Mark at the Intermediate track that day was Roger Bess, who retired in May 2021. Before retiring, Roger was the chief engineer for Toshiba, and one of his main professional accomplishments was designing self-checkout machines for grocery stores. He maintains MultiGP’s website in his retirement and has also helped with track setup, judging, timing, and scoring. "[Retiring] has allowed me time to volunteer for the technical side of MultiGP," Roger stated.

Elsewhere on-site, at the World Cup 1 track, was first-time MultiGP volunteer Clare Cannizzaro. The mother of a young pilot, Spencer, Clare said that she was enjoying the volunteer experience. "I love just making sure everybody is taken care of," she explained. When Spencer wanted to come to the International Open to compete, she volunteered to take him. Because she was camping at the IAC, she decided that she might as well help out. The theatrical manager by profession was willing to do whatever MultiGP needed to ensure that the contest ran as planned. "I’m sure I’ll get more in deep as the event progresses," she added.

Also at that track were volunteers Britny Hodroff, who has assisted with MultiGP events for 3-1/2 years, and Paul Adkins, who braved the brutal August heat to ensure that all pilots were ready for their takeoffs.

As Paul walked back and forth in front of the pilots while wiping sweat off his brow, Britny was in a tent nearby, monitoring flights. Before pilots in each heat could walk to the flightline, Clare scanned the QR codes on the their badges to connect their quads to the LiveTime scoring software. Clare, Britny, and Paul were so well coordinated that it appeared as though they had worked together for years.

At the Team Racing track, brothers Andjelo and Oscar Rios had, in fact, been doing things together for years, and it showed. They made sure that the track was properly set up and were preparing for the Team Racing preliminaries to begin. "We’ve been all over the place [this week], but this is our scheduled track," Andjelo said. "We like Team Racing," he added. The brothers, who belong to the WolfPack Racers and helped build one of the largest MultiGP chapters in Florida, kept busy making sure that the pilots were flying safely. They were also in charge of track teardown.

"It’s amazingly close, extremely competitive," Oscar said of Team Racing. Oscar and his brother said that when they are not at a MultiGP event, they are also a team. "This hobby has brought us closer together."

"Actually, we do everything together," Angelo chimed in. "We’re just all in this." In addition to drone racing, the brothers, from the Palm Coast, Florida, area, enjoy going shooting, driving RC trucks, fishing, and building things together. In their spare time, they are designing an FPV lawnmower, Oscar added.

Probably one of the most important volunteers for the week was MultiGP’s own first responder, Michael Oliver. At the World Cup 2 track, he was bandaging a pilot’s finger that had been cut by a propeller. "I only come to this event to be a first responder and to enjoy the atmosphere," Michael stated. The team manager for Hobby Nation (a distributor of drone parts), has attended the MultiGP International Open since the first one was held in 2017. "The first year, I didn’t bring my medical kit and there were three instances. My wife said, ‘You should start bringing your medical kit.’" He has every year since.

two huge quads compete in the mega class.
Two huge quads compete in the Mega Class.

This year, Michael also brought a four-wheeler so that he could easily move from track to track as needed. "I find that a lot of times, people are unaware of how important it is to properly clean [an injury or cut]." He has been a certified first responder for 6 years.

In addition to propeller cuts, Michael has treated injuries caused by people falling off bicycles, skateboards, and Onewheels.

On a less serious note, adding more fun to the event with their commentary and games were volunteers Matt Flack and Matt King, who were overseeing the Freestyle track and events.

"I wanted to help, be a part of it, and bring it to people from all over," Matt King said. Both men hail from the Kansas City area, where they hold Freestyle quadcopter events.

Matt King stated that this is the first year that the duo has volunteered for MultiGP. "There’s a whole other community. There’s Freestyle and racing. It’s definitely a whole other group of guys out here," he said of the Freestyle pilots. To compete in the MultiGP International Open, pilots had to use analog systems. The Freestyle pilots were using solely digital systems.

"It’s been great. You just meet so many other people out here," Matt King said of the experience of volunteering for the 2021 International Open.

As the week progressed, these volunteers could be seen traveling from track to track to help as needed.

On August 13, the day of the Team Race event, Mark and Roger helped the Rios brothers at their track. Clare could also be found at the track, retrieving downed quadcopters.

"We have volunteers at each tent, with three volunteers at each track, except the Rookie track," Mark explained. The Rookie track also doubled as the Mega Class track. Before the qualifying portion of Team Racing began, Mark addressed the pilots and reviewed the rules.

first time multigp international open volunteer
First-time MultiGP International Open volunteer Clare Cannizzaro checks in a young pilot’s quadcopter at the World Cup 1 track.
oscar rios runs wires across a tent at the team
Oscar Rios runs wires across a tent at the Team Racing track. He and his brother, Andjelo, were in charge of the Team Racing track this year.
mark grohe oscar rios joe scully
(L-R): Mark Grohe, Oscar Rios, Joe Scully, and Andjelo Rios volunteer at the Team Racing event.

Angelo explained that teams were required to complete a certain number of laps in a designated time limit. "It could be 1,000 laps [total] today. We have 16 teams," he shared.

"This [winning team] gets a paid ticket to Mayhem, a 12-hour race in Texas. It’s a $1,000 entry fee," Oscar said.

As far as their responsibilities at the Team Race, "It’s pretty much watching the teams work together," Oscar added. "Different teams have different methods. It’s interesting to see."

Angelo said he enjoyed volunteering at the Team Racing track because "The intensity is very good."

"It’s nonstop excitement," Oscar stated.

After Team Heart of America won the event, it was time for the volunteers to tear the track down and get some rest before a long day of preparing for what would be the culmination of the MultiGP International Open: The World Cup finals.

All week, pilots flew the courses at the World Cup 1 and World Cup 2 tracks, attempting to qualify for the main event. On the evening of Saturday, August 14, volunteers were busy at the World Cup 1 track, working together to complete whatever tasks were necessary to get ready for the big, long night. These jobs included running extension cords across the main tent, setting up a projector to show the live feed on the ceiling of the tent, setting up lights, announcing which pilots were up next to fly, checking in quadcopters, inspecting aircraft on the launch stands, providing commentary throughout the contest, and more.

At approximately 2 a.m. on August 15, Evan "HeadsUp FPV" Turner was named the World Cup champion.

When asked why the MultiGP International Open needed volunteers, Mark summed it up by speaking for himself and his fellow pilots. "We’re kind of like cats—we need direction."



By Rachelle Haughn |
Photos by the author and as noted

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