Star Wars fans, take note: for the first time, you have a shot at being a pod racer just like the young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. Well, maybe not quite like Anakin, but quadcopter racing is about to take the extreme sport world by storm.
Underground quadcopter racing is already hugely popular in Australia, and we can expect to see the exciting medley of sport and virtual reality becoming mainstream in America soon too.
First person view (FPV) takes this sport to the next level, allowing pilots to sit in lawn chairs and fly speedy little drones around amazing venues—from abandoned warehouses to pristine forests—while experiencing the rush firsthand. Pilots wear goggles that transmit live video from a camera mounted at the front of the drone, and the footage is crazier than a rollercoaster ride.
What sets drone racing apart from other sports is that it’s not innate athletic ability or hours spent training in a gym that makes a successful racer. Instead, it’s a sport where anyone can excel, given a love of technology and an enterprising spirit. Drone racing is a sport in which spectators become athletes and geeks become gods. It’s an alluring premise, and one that the newly created International Drone Racing Association thinks will make for great television and huge cash prizes in the not too distant future.
Created last April to bring together over 500 racers and drone enthusiasts, the International Drone Racing Association hopes to spur drone innovation, organize world class races, and promote education and awareness around the burgeoning sport. As the sport has grown so quickly, there are still a lot of details that need to be figured out, including how best to view the sport as spectators, what the rules of competition are, and the best venues in which to hold races. Essentially, drone racing is only in its fledgling stage, but one look at a Youtube video of popular FPV racer known in the community as Charpu makes the sport’s appeal instantly clear.
Money is also starting to flow into the sport by investors eager to ride the wave of the next big sports tech trend. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross invested $1 million in the Drone Racing League, which has recently launched its competition series with more than $8 million in overall funding. The first “level” of competition was fittingly held at the Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. As they reach speeds up to 80 MPH, watching these drones fly, dodge and dive is exhilarating, if not a bit nauseating at times. Check out the highlights on the Drone Racing League site.
Most of the current racing drones are made out of carbon fiber, four propellers, a motor, a battery and some circuitry—meaning there’s endless potential to upgrade quadcopter technology. The companies that get on the forefront of developing a better spectator experience, as well as technology that’s less fragile, are sure to cash in on this emerging trend in extreme sports.
Photo Credits: Instagram/International Drone Racing Association