Virtual reality will meet reality at the Rotorua Drone Racing Champs and Open Day this weekend.

Sponsored and organised by online drone store Ace Company, about 20 pilots are expected to compete.

Owner Lee McKenzie is expecting drone pilots from as far as Auckland, Wellington and Hawke's Bay.

Drone racing sees a pilot navigate a track using a drone. The pilot puts on goggles showing a live video feed of the drone race and navigates the machine.

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McKenzie said it was like the pilot was sitting in the drone.

"It's like virtual reality meets reality. You put on goggles to control the drone."

The course can include natural or introduced obstacles such as gates and flags.

McKenzie said it was a unique experience and adrenaline kicked in as soon as the drone took off.

"It's quite a different experience. When you're racing you feel your thumbs shaking and your heart racing."

McKenzie said drone racing had taken off overseas and was becoming more popular.

Most pilots make their own drones so McKenzie said it was also a chance to learn about electronics and soldering, and building them was relaxing. The drones can fly at up to 180km/h.

"If you like tinkering, it's almost the perfect hobby."

The public is invited to the racing champs and open day and there will be the chance to fly a photography drone.

Drone pilots watch the action through virtual reality goggles and steer using a remote. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Drone pilots watch the action through virtual reality goggles and steer using a remote. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The photography drones differed from racing drones in the same way cars differed from race cars, McKenzie said.

The event is a Rotorcross New Zealand event. Rotorcross NZ was set up to govern the racing and develop a racing community.

This is the second year it has run in Rotorua.

Event details
When: Sunday, February 25, 11am to 3pm
Where: Rotor Drone Racing Track, 10 Sunnex Rd, Rotorua
What: Watch drone racing or have a go at flying one
Cost: Free to watch, costs $5 to have a go to cover administration and insurance
See more at: www.dronerace.co.nz.