In the last few years, personal drones have surged in popularity. In addition to being a pastime for hobbyists and people interested in RC technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are now being used in a variety of fields including film-making, package delivery, agriculture, news and even health care.

One group of drone enthusiasts have embraced the competitive potential of RC piloting, leading to the rise of a new sport: drone racing.

In drone racing, pilots race high-speed quadcopters around a predetermined course. The drones are equipped with on-board cameras that stream live video to pilots wearing FPV (first person view) goggles. This allows pilots to react quickly, and in real time, to the events of the race. The pilots complete laps while flying through brightly lit LED gates and around markers at speeds of up to 120mph.

Given that drones have the ability to hover, and move in 3-dimensional space, race courses are not limited to a circular arena. Drone races often take place in abandoned buildings, through the inside of stadiums or even around popular monuments or event expos. This presents an interesting dynamic for spectators, who will be equipped with similar video goggles allowing them to view firsthand what the pilots are seeing as they navigate the race course.

The drones are created as lightweight as possible using carbon fiber components and innovative engineering to keep them fast and agile. Some race series, such as those by the Drone Racing League (DRL), are restricted to the specially designed DRL Racer2, a 255mm high-speed quadcopter built for agility and endurance. Other competitions allow the use of multiple types of drones, as well as fully customized RC functionality.

DRL is taking drone racing to the next level as a competitive sport. The league combines the best FPV drone pilots in the world, advanced drone piloting technology and high-quality media coverage, giving the sport the same feeling as other major spectator sporting events. The DRL brings pilots from all over the globe, with top pilots from areas including the USA, Australia, Mexico and Brazil. 

According to ESPN, in the coming months drone racing has the potential to gain notoriety comparative to that of other major racing series such as Formula 1 and NASCAR. This August, as a result of a partnership between the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) and ESPN, drone racing will be internationally distributed as the first IDRA event showcased by a major sporting network.

This event will take place on Governors Island, and has the potential to bring out the best of the best drone pilots as the winner will receive the title of the fastest drone pilot in the United States. In addition, ESPN3 will stream the upcoming 2016 World Drone Racing Championships, which offers drone pilots the chance to win prestige and a $200,000 cash prize.  

In many ways drone racing gives the same sensation as competitive e-sports; it’s entertaining, futuristic, has a devoted fan base and it’s hard to believe that it’s actually a sport. Who knows, in the next few years drone racing could really take off as the sport of the future.

Featured Image Source – Drone Racing League