Sports fans in most of the world have long held a single sport close to heart–football. But, that’s changing! Drone racing is rapidly expanding across the entire globe. Of course, it has a way to go to catch up with the popularity of football. However, drone racing is holding its own in light of the fairly recent debut of the sport.
What on Earth is Drone Racing?
For those who have never heard of drone racing, here’s a brief summary of how it all works.
Pilots use First-Person View (FPV) technology to fly drones in a competitive race. The drones are equipped with cameras to show streaming images throughout the competition. Pilots wear goggles to view those images. From that image feed, the pilots can interact with the drones and guide the drones through the course. Obstacles in the course entertain the spectators and offer a challenge to the pilots. These obstacles can be flags, hoops, tunnels, or walls. A single mistake can spell catastrophe for the pilot.
Pretty cool, right?
The History of the Sport of Drone Racing
Indeed, racing drones is a very recent sport! It began in Australia in 2014 as an amateur competition and quickly spread to Canada, the EU, and China. By late 2015, racing leagues were forming to organize and promote this new and exciting sport.
As you can see, this is a very short history. Because, well, it is a short history!
Drone Racing Organizations
As racing drones grew into a popular amateur sport, flyers began to recognize the need for organizing leagues to standardize the rules of engagement. In addition, these leagues strive to promote and grow the sport so that it will continue this tremendous evolution. Here are some of the notable drone racing organizations:
Founded in Montreal in 2014, FPV Canada is Canada’s first drone race organization. It’s noteworthy because it’s touted as one of the earliest organized drone leagues in the world! They championed the sport and helped its rapid rise in popularity by establishing chapters throughout the large nation.
Another early comer to the drone race industry was Rotocross. This Perth, Australia organization also formed around the end of 2014. They offer training in the sport to pilots of all skill levels to continue to groom the next generation of pilots and advance the sport. The wild early growth of the sport in Australia is attributed to Rotocross.
MultiGP was started in February of 2015 in Florida. This grew from a local UAV club to a grassroots movement to spread the sport to new reaches of the world. The organization now boasts of over 600 chapters in the world and over 22k members. This organization is thought to be the first one to split their racers into “classes” according to equipment. This move leveled the playing field–or airspace, in this case–so that the pilot with the most expensive rigs is always the winner. Instead, the outcome is more likely to be due to the skill of the pilot.
International Drone Racing Association
The International Drone Racing Association (IDRA): Formed on April 3, 2015, the IDRA is one of the earliest drone race leagues. The IDRA has hosted pro competitions around the world from Dubai to California. Their main goal was to monetize the sport and grow it into an international sensation. Currently, they look like they are reaching this goal as they distribute races to millions via an agreement with Amazon. This agreement has captured new drone spectators throughout the world.
The Drone Racing League (DRL):
Founded in January of 2016 in the United States, the Drone Racing League (DRL) was the first league to find extensive commercial funding. Sponsors such as BMW, Allianz, and Swatch have allowed this league to catapult into the limelight with bigger events that attract more pilots and spectators. This league has helped bring the sport further into the mainstream. In fact, they had had events broadcast by American sports giant, ESPN. Of course, this wide exposure is a direct result of that healthy cash flow!
In addition, the DRL is the only organization that currently pays an income to allow their pilots to earn a full-time living piloting race drones!
British FPV Racing Association:
The British FPV Racing Association advances flying drones as a sport across the UK. They host events, create awareness of their sport, and draw spectators from throughout the UK to their races.
Drone racing is an ever-growing sport. Dedicated followers of the sport can’t wait to find out! Because drone flying is such a young sport, the possibilities are almost endless. Within just a short timeframe of four or five years, it has grown exponentially throughout North and South America, Asia, the EU, and Australia.
What’s next? An Olympic event?
While I don’t hold a crystal ball to predict the exact future, I do see that the sport of drone racing is on the rise. Indeed, this sport shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, I’d say that the sky is the limit for the drone race industry.