This past weekend, Hobbico brought hundreds of spectators and (remote control) pilots alike to their annual E-Fest. Held at the Armory on the University of Illinois Urbana campus, tickets were $20 for pre-registered pilots ($25 at the door) and $5 for spectators. A shuttle bus to and from parking at the campus E-14 lot helped visitors travel throughout the day, and concessions were also available for those who wanted to eat at the event rather than a hotel or campus locales.

Inside the Armory, the main track was set aside as a flight zone for planes, while smaller portions on the sides were reserved for those flying drones and helicopters. Surrounding the flight deck were end to end tables for pilots and their gear, with staff monitoring the flight line to make sure everyone was staying safe. Background music (sorry, no Danger Zone) helped keep everyone upbeat, even when the semi-frequent mid-air collisions or crash landings temporarily knocked planes out of action.

Vendors selling parts, R/C vehicles (both air and land), and providing demonstrations ringed the outer walls while two seminar rooms located outside the track area offered guests an opportunity to learn more about everything from building racers to FAA drone regulations. There were also chances for kids to build their own foam model airplane, as well as a flight school that helped you earn your permit and a chance to fly a real drone.

Overall the mood of the day was lively and fun, with pilots sharing plenty of stories and tips while guests watched on and occasionally inquired about getting involved themselves. For more photos from the first day of the event, check below!

Below, gotta have plenty of batteries to keep things in the air.

Below, cleanup in aisle... well, everywhere.

Below, the Prize Blimp routinely circled the Armory, dropping redeemable prize coupons for the spectators (and, later, a bunch of $1 bills for the pilots).

Below, drone obstacle course races tested pilots' skill... and sometimes the durability of their aircraft.

Below, not everything R/C is in the air.

Below, probably not much leg room on this flight.

About the author:

Stephen is an IT manager for the University of Illinois and has been a photographer for Smile Politely since 2015. Find his photography on Facebook or contact him directly via email.