This is a major danger of racing with aircraft. When something breaks, the pilot can't just pull over.

Drone racing remains a niche sport, at least in comparison to traditional ground-based motorsports. During the recent Formula E race in New York, a Titan Grand Prix GFD1 drone demonstrated why watching them compete could be an exciting show because the little aircraft failed and crashed back to Earth. The crowd laughed and cheered at seeing the destruction.

The drone was racing a Formula E car as part of a stunt after the cars were done competing. The plan was to stage a best-of-three challenge to see which vehicle was quicker around a third of the course – roughly 2,130 feet (650 meters), according to The Verge.

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The Formula E machine won by default because the drone crashed while returning to the starting line after the first run. The aircraft appeared fail all of a sudden and tumbled out of the air. It smashed into several pieces upon hitting the ground. 

The GFD1 drone has a total of eight propellers that emerge from four stalks out of the main body. It measures 43.3 inches (1,100 millimeters) diagonally from motor to motor. The Federation of Drone Racing intends to use aircraft of this size for the fastest class in its series.

According to The Drive, earlier versions of the GFD1 could reportedly reach 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour). The one at the New York event was an upgraded version that could potentially have hit even higher speeds. 

Much like the Roborace series for autonomous cars, drone racing offers the opportunity to watch vehicles compete without worrying about anyone getting hurt. If this aircraft had pilots on board, they could have sustained serious injuries. Instead, the only problems were some broken parts. Last year, ESPN3 in the United States signed a deal to air drone racing on television, which was possibly an early step for it into the motorsport mainstream.

Source: The Drive, The Verge, Andrew Eisenberg via YouTube