Sumter man heads to South Korea for drone competition

BY TIM LEIBLE tim@theitem.com
Posted 8/14/19

William Tickel has been working on building the drone flying community here in Sumter for the last couple of years. Now he's taking that passion for drones to a bigger stage, as he qualified to take part in the MultiGP Mega Class Team DSI Exhibition …

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Sumter man heads to South Korea for drone competition

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William Tickel has been working on building the drone flying community here in Sumter for the last couple of years. Now he's taking that passion for drones to a bigger stage, as he qualified to take part in the MultiGP Mega Class Team DSI Exhibition in Hadong, South Korea, this weekend.

Tickel has been building and racing drones for the last three years and he had the chance to travel to Muncie, Indiana, for the MultiGP International Open back in June. A third-place finish in the Mega event earned him the trip to South Korea, though he wasn't aware that was on the line when he made the trip to Indiana.

"We didn't know about it when we got there and they were just like, By the way, the top four are going to Korea, so let us know if you're willing,' " said Tickel. "I looked over at (my wife) Heather and she was like 'Heck yeah, let's do it.' It was exciting. I've never been over there, but just to be a part of something this big is incredible."

Tickel finished third in a field of about 40 racers from across the country. Drone piloting has really taken off in the last half-decade, but the larger rigs in the mega category haven't fully taken off in popularity. That field of 40 is compared to the hundreds of people in the field for races with smaller drones.

The event in Hadong will provide a different challenge for Tickel. Most of the races Tickel competes in involve flying through different gate posts with a lot of laps. The DSI Exhibition in South Korea will set itself apart by taking place over the water and involve flying around larger objects like lighthouses on a 2-lap course. The race will end up being at least one mile. Tickel will also have the chance to fly some smaller drones while in South Korea, as there will be a few events for smaller drones leading up to his mega race on Saturday.

Tickel will be competing with drones he made himself. He works with different manufacturers to get the various pieces, rather than having a set with instructions. This gives him the chance to customize it as much as the technology allows.

"I build everything I fly," said Tickel. "I've been flying these bigger ones for close to two years now, and it's taken a lot of time to figure out what's best and what works with what."

That customization is still letting Tickel tinker with his setup. He's going to be flying with a slightly different drone than he flew in the event in Muncie because he and his designer worked on a way to make the drone lighter and more efficient.

"This is actually new. The guy that designed them, the one that he designed, I flew at the IO event (in Muncie) and it was kind of a heavier rig," said Tickel. "I started talking to him, and I said if there was one thing I would want from the rig, it was for it to be a little lighter and he designed this one. Now it's got minimal hardware and thinner plates and overall less material. We lost 500 grams. That's pretty good weight saving."

While Tickel wasn't originally planning on going to South Korea to compete in another event when he got to the International Open in Muncie, that doesn't mean he's taking a relaxed approach when he heads to Hadong. He wants to come out and show off his new rig with a win.

"I definitely set a goal for myself; I want to place first," said the local drone pilot. "Overall, I want to go for the experience. I've never been, so it'll be a great experience for me and my wife to go there."