An Up-and-Coming Drone Racer: This is MannyH!mself’s Journey

TDW talk with Manuel Garcia, otherwise known as Manny H!msf, one of Drone Racing League’s most exciting new pilots, about his beginnings, plans, and lessons he’s learned along the way!

  • Find out who Manuel Garcia is – Drone Racing League’s Algorand 13th Pilot.

  • From DRL SIM, Drone Racing League’s true-to-life drone racing simulator to the DRL Algorand World Championship, read more about his drone racing journey.

  • Check out his top tips for upcoming drone racers and predictions for the future of the sport.

Very few occasions fully attract the attention of every drone pilot and drone racer worldwide at the same time – new drone releases and drone racing events. Undoubtedly, drone racing has become the one sport revered by drone pilots. The pure adrenaline, rush, and speed are some of the reasons why people are glued to the screens once the Drone Racing League (DRL) commences.

As one of the world’s biggest sports leagues, the DRL represents a real entertainment platform advocating for a bigger exposure to the sport. The Drone Racing League (DRL) is the world’s premier, professional drone racing property. The best drone pilots in the world fly in the league and millions of fans watch them race on NBC, Twitter and other international sports networks. Its drone pilots – the racers who compete are considered real rock stars in the eyes of the fans. Today, we are talking to one of the rising stars in drone racing , Manuel Garcia – an up-and-coming drone racer you need to have on your radar.

The name may not ring a bell at the first. But, when we mention MANNYH!MSF, you surely know who we are talking about. Manny was given the opportunity by Algorand to join Drone Racing League’s 2021-22 DRL Algorand World Championship Season as the Algorand 13th Pilot.

As a reminder, DRL has recently partnered with Algorand, signifying a major moment in the industry embracing crypto and blockchain. As a leading blockchain technology, Algorand is a decentralized, secure, and scalable blockchain, providing a platform for building products/services for the decentralized economy. Moreover, Manny is a real symbol of this partnership, embodying speed, skills, motivation, and a strong will.

Find out more about him and his journey so far in this exclusive interview where Manny talks openly about his drone racing adventures for the very first time.

Manny H!msf in action | Credits to DRL

Saving Lives by Day, Racing DRL Pilots by Night

Manuel Garcia is born and raised in Miami, Florida. He told us he just moved to Atlanta, Georgia about seven years ago where he was introduced to the sport of FPV (first person view) racing. 

“At the time I moved up here back in 2015, that’s when everything started to emerge and everything started to get a little bit more underground with the sport. There were a lot of tech guys from Georgia who were innovating and essentially creating drone racing as a sport. A lot of people were gathering in certain parks around Atlanta just racing. So, I kind of fell in love with it. I started racing from that point on,” he adds.

We may all know him as an amazing drone racer. Still, his full-time career is a very noble one. When Manuel isn’t on the DRL Flight Deck, you can find him saving lives as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician (EMT). We thanked him for everything he and his colleagues are doing, especially in these challenging times. Humbly and with a smile, he said, “Thanks so much. Yeah, it’s been daunting, but it’s all right – we’re alive and we’re all doing well.”

Manuel has a lovely family and plenty of hobbies. He likes lifting weights, exercising, working out, and playing video games. Regarding his firefighting career, he shared with us he constantly looks for opportunities for engaging in classes related to firefighting and looking into other aspects of firefighting, too.

A testament to Manny’s experience and skill is his stunning performance in his very first match as a drone racer in a DRL race where he finished second.

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About His Beginnings: Becoming Manny H!msf the Drone Racer We Know Today

TDW: We’re talking about drone racing as a new sport. So, what we’re interested in finding out is how do you define drone racing and why did you choose it? You mentioned video games before – is there a connection there?

M.: Absolutely! My background in video games stems back from when I was a child. In my opinion, your speed of reaction, perception of video games, and how you use your hands translate very well to drone racing, especially on the transmitter. I must thank my mom for allowing me to play video games all those years. She definitely didn’t like me doing that, but anyway it transitioned well and it’s working out now for me.

To define drone racing, it’s just speed, adrenaline, and the most amount of fun! It’s an exhilarating high-speed, tech sport, and, believe it or not, there’s so much emotion and mental stake in it that I didn’t even know existed until I got to a professional level.

The best part about drone racing is when you have people surrounding you all around. Thanks to more head-to-head racing, the experience is so much better!

TDW: Awesome! Well done, mom. Since you’re drone racing actively and professionally, how did you develop the required skills to become a drone racer? What are the factors that contribute to your success? A lot of drone racers do drone racing simulation environments – so, how do they help with developing a drone racer and their behavior on the race track?

M.: A lot of people like to say you might as well fly in real life than fly on simulators. To a certain point, I believe that’s true – if you fly real life versus the simulators you’re going to get better practice and experience and you’re going to understand the technology more in the sense of finding ways to be more competitive and learning how to fix and repair parts. 

However, the simulator gives you so much more on the mental side of things at first. I want to emphasize the ‘at first’ moment. It teaches you how to try to stay calm during drone races, knowing when to get back and when to actually go forward and throttle up. With simulators, as a drone racer, you can understand more easily the mechanics of it all, how the drone flies, and how difficult it is to actually get through gates, and then understand the learning curve that comes with actually flying.

Having other people around you all the time and the stress that gets put on your shoulders is all real. So, simulators give you the needed experience at an early point as opposed to flying in real life at first where you don’t necessarily get the experience until you actually get good enough to be side by side with the fast guys.

The DRL SIM is an amazing platform for doing this. You can download it today to learn to fly like the pros.

Credits to Star2346 7-FPV

TDW: Very interesting point of view. So, which drones have you flown before and which drone are you flying now?

M.: At the moment the big craze is Freedom Spec. Then, you have 7-inch racing, in a way, which is for the Street League. Freedom Spec is, in fact, a drone racing spec that was created by Five33, run by two-time DRL Algorand World Champion Evan “Headsup” Turner, who is a friend of mine. He’s one of the best drone racing pilots in the world and he created the spec to try to create more of a chase-style racing concept. 

With traditional 5-inch on 6s racing, everything is just incredibly fast. Moreover, it’s almost like you can’t even see people and it’s about muscle memory. 

In turn, this one [Freedom Spec] requires you to think a little bit more on your lines. That way you can be more competitive and chase people down. Personally, I love it because it gives you the time to react, think it through, and see your opponent. On the other hand, with the 6s [racing], you don’t really have that time and it’s more along the lines of ‘go and hopefully you make it through’. 

The 7-inch is also a huge thing in drone racing right now. The Street League is emerging and is run by another good friend of mine known as the drone racer Sky on the Drone Racing League. Furthermore, he’s creating a Street League-style spec, where you can get a big 7-inch drone, which is very similar to the ones we fly on the Drone Racing League (DRL), and race competitively with the community.

The best part about these drones is that they don’t break. So, you could be in the air racing as fast as you can and really push your limits without having to worry if you’re going to break the camera or some other part of the drone.

Drone racing is a real rollercoaster of emotions | Credits to DRL

Manny’s Experience with the Drone Racing League

TDW: That’s great to hear. We’ve talked about passion and skills. Now, your story with the Drone Champions League (DCL) and their drone racing season kicked off. What was your experience with them so far?

M.: I joined DCL with the draft selection as I was actually on the simulation for the majority of the time. The DRL SIM has always been my go-to one and it was the one I really enjoyed flying and I really wanted to put an emphasis on DRL. For all those who are interested, the DRL SIM Tryouts, an annual player-to-pilot esports tournament, begins on June 13, and anyone can compete to become the next DRL Pilot.

Basically, DCL came in and they were having a draft selection. So, I just transferred my skills there and I ended up getting top five in the draft selection. Then, I was drafted by Raiden Racing to compete in the virtual season for 2020, which was great. 

From there, I ended up transitioning back to the DRL. I was lucky Algorand gave me the opportunity to join DRL as the Algorand 13th Pilot.

TDW: Congratulations on that! How do you feel being the Algorand 13th Pilot in the team and the League’s partnership with Algorand?

M.: Thank you! The partnership is fantastic – it’s a huge achievement for both the DRL and Algorand. I feel that striking that five-year deal was a huge boost to the sport and the morale of the pilots, too. I feel fortunate that I was given the opportunity. 

For my first DRL race, I was able to perform in front of the actual sponsors. It was amazing to have the chance to put on the show.

Drone racer Manny into the MannyVerse

Ready for the #MannyVerse | Credits to DRL

TDW: How would you say your first drone racing championship season went? Are you satisfied with how everything turned out?

M.: Not really, because I know I got more to give [smiles]. I came in as a walk-in for the 2021 DRL season. Despite the COVID protocols and problems that were occurring throughout the season, luckily, I was able to be given that opportunity to actually join. Then, I was given a full pilot contract after my first race, which made me ecstatic.

I feel I have no reason to shy away from any of this, so I think I didn’t perform to my optimal level during the SIM season and I wish I would have. It wasn’t like it was a lack of trying. But, I don’t think I was truly mentally prepared for what I was about to endure as a drone racer competing with all these professional pilots.

Before going on a professional level, I was doing great on the simulator with all these guys. Everything has been a learning curve. I learned a lot from it and now I am bracing myself for, hopefully, next season where I can actually dominate and do some good stuff!

A Supportive (and Competitive) Family of Drone Operators

Drone racer Manny and colleagues

With two of his colleagues – Sky and Vanover | Credits to DRL

TDW: It’s great that you treat this as a great learning experience and that you’re constantly working on your craft. Since you mentioned the latest drone racing season, what do you think about your fellow drone racers? Do you all hang out after an exhausting race?

M.: All of them are fantastic guys and real jokesters and pranksters. Also, they’re all hyper-competitive. So, when we get onto the actual DRL Flight Deck, it feels like all bets are off and we don’t care (laughs) – we’ll trash talk and we’ll say things to each other.

But, at the end of the day, those guys are some of the best drone pilots and they’re amazing. They do support me greatly, which I can’t ask enough for, and I support them, too – it’s a two-way street. Specifically, I would have to say HeadsUp and AlexFPV are huge cheerleaders of mine.

Amari and Sky are another duo that really support me – I come from the simulator with them where we competed together. Fun fact – Amari beat me in the 2020 DRL SIM Tryouts and it ended up being devastating (laughs).

TDW: Speaking of influential people in the drone racing industry, is there someone you look up to specifically from your colleagues or from someone out there in the world whose work you admire a lot?

M.: It’s great that you asked me that. In fact, I am an admirer of professional athletes. I look at the mental aspect of their game and how they approach it.

I’m a huge, huge fan of Kobe Bryant. Coincidentally, I am reading a book right now, which I absolutely love, called Winning by Tim S. Grover. Tim S. Grover was a conditioning coach for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and in the book, he talks about the mental aspects of how Kobe approached his game and how he relentlessly pursued to win.

Manny - drone racer
Source: Manny’s Instagram page

It resonated so much with me as I’ve always been that type of guy who comes from nothing and I try to become something. When I first started my drone racing journey, I told myself that I wanted to become a DRL champion. That’s what I wanted to do! So, I sat down, turned on the DRL simulator, and put in about 2,400 hours of flight time, just grinding to secure a win at the DRL SIM Tryouts. Even with my initial 2,400 hours, I could not do it – that’s how difficult it is. As I mentioned, I think it comes down to the mental aspect right at that position when you have to keep the nerves in check, which are amplified during competitions.

You don’t really get that with in-real-life flying, whereas the simulator definitely provides the opportunity. This is why I wholeheartedly promote simulation training and competition.

Yeah, it was a long painstaking process, especially learning the technology. But, over the last seven years, I have just been trying to get myself into this position. Luckily, I did and I hope the future is bright.

Drone racer with his colleagues and friends

Manny with his colleagues and friends | Source: Manny’s Instagram page

What Are Manny’s Tips for Aspiring Drone Racers?

TDW: You’re such an inspiring person and drone racer. We hope that your whole dedication and hard work pay off and that your wishes and plans come true soon. So, what’s some advice for people who want to take this on? 

M.: Thank you so much! If you want to be in the position that I’m in right now, you just need to believe in yourself – that’s number one. I know that sounds absolutely cliché, but it’s imperative!

You need to try hard, work hard, and you need to consider yourself to be the best even though you may not be. I say this in the sense that you should amplify that confidence to really put yourself out there and compete at a high level. That’s the only way to do it.

I have a family, a full-time job, and a lot of other obligations and now I have drone racing as a sport. I have zero free time and a lot of that has come with a lot of sacrifices I had to make to get to this position. For instance, I had to cut out hanging out with friends, dining out, and buying new clothes that I didn’t really need because I needed drone parts instead.

So, hard work, sacrifice, and just pursuing what you love are my top tips. If you pursue what you love, you’ll be good at it no matter what.

What We Can Expect from the Future of the Fastest Racing Drones and Drone Racing

TDW: Well said! Where do you see drone racing going on in the future? As a professional pilot, what are some of the next big trends you’ve noticed?

M.: That’s a great question! There are so many facets to it right now. I can say drone racing is in its infancy at the moment. The Drone Racing League is doing a fantastic job at pushing the industry forward. On the other hand, you have a lot of players that are kind of still looming and underground.

For one, Airspeeder, over in Australia, is doing a great job. They’re trying to create life-sized drones where pilots can get inside of them and race them, similar to flying cars. Essentially, they aren’t even drones – they’re technically flying cars. I have a friend of mine who’s a pilot with them and I can’t wait to see him in action. 

Drone racer Manny with Algorand CEO
Manny and the CEO of Algorand,
Steve Kokinos | Credits to DRL

In my opinion, drone racing is going bigger and definitely not downsizing. I’m saying this is because as a spectator, I want to see bigger, flashier drones and something menacing flying through the air that can cut me if it hits me. I think that’s part of what people want to see. They want to see risk in sports – that’s why American football is so prominent here in the U.S., as well as, NASCAR.

TDW: So, when are we going to see drone racing at the Olympics?

M.: That would be absolutely amazing! I don’t know, but I would love to see it in the Olympics. One of the greatest things about drone racing, too, is that there are so many countries involved already. 

It’s everywhere. I have friends all over the world and we all talk about going over to each other’s countries just to race drones. So, that network, which we’re creating, develops a giant culture. I have high expectations that there will be a giant boom in the industry in a couple of years.

TDW: I think that one of the unmissable topics is, of course, FPV drones and DJI’s model. What’s your take?

M.: DJI is a great company. They definitely push drones to the next level. Of course, it’s a huge advocate of awareness for the sport. It raised the public’s awareness about drones and I’m grateful to them for that. Everyone knows what a drone is now, essentially, because of them.

However, I find the DJI equipment, unfortunately, to have a lot of latency in regards to high-speed drone racing, considering how fast we fly.

There’s a new emerging technology called HDZero, which is essentially a module that just amplifies high-definition resolution with no latency. I see plenty of racers transitioning to it and using it on their racing profiles.

That, along with DRL and T-Mobile’s 5G racing drone, I think in the future, you’ll be able to probably log in from your phone straight to my drone as I’m racing it and you’ll be able to see exactly what I’m seeing in a live feed.

TDW: That would be amazing to see! Lastly, would you like to share something that we haven’t asked you? 

M.: Besides being just a drone racer, my goal is to be a true ambassador of the sport. I want to leave a mark and inspire others to pursue their dreams and pursue themselves in this industry. 

Drones and drone racing represent a new industry in the same way computers were in the 1970s. It was this amazing technology that a lot of these hobbyists were creating. But, they didn’t know what direction to go by. I believe in the foreseeable future, 10-20 years from now, we’re going to see something amazing and huge with this [drone] technology, and with robotics, in general. 

My biggest take is to just advise people and every drone racer to chase their dreams, keep going, and never stop becoming a child. I’m a little kid at heart and I love flying these things. Even though I have a full-time job and a career, I’m still making sure I stay true to who I am. That’s the reason I picked the drone racing name – Manny H!msf.

Until Next Time…

Manny - DRL's drone racer
Source: Manny’s Instagram page

When we see them up on the DRL Flight Deck, they are real superstars – passionate, fun, dauntless, and adventurous. As one of them, Manny embodies everything a drone racer is and should be. In our discussion with him, we were so inspired to learn more about his dreams and what drives him to pursue success and greatness.

We thank Manny wholeheartedly for the chat and the time he set aside to answer all of our questions. We, at The Drones World, can’t wait to see what he does next and follow his drone passing the finish line in the upcoming DRL Algorand World Championship Season!

In the meantime, follow the drone racer Manny and get in touch with him via his InstagramTikTok, and YouTube profiles where his fan base is only growing.

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