It was a hot sunny July afternoon in Lynchburg, VA at the minor league baseball stadium. On this afternoon, there weren’t sounds of a bat hitting a baseball or venders trying to sell peanuts or an umpire calling balls and strikes. On this clear July afternoon, there was a high pitched buzz of battery propelled, quadcopter drones screaming around a course racing at speeds up to 80 mph. Welcome to drone racing!
There is no doubt the commercial use of drones is becoming more of a reality in agriculture, infrastructure inspections, insurance, emergency management, energy and cinematography. But have you heard of drone racing? Earlier this year, ESPN3 announced an agreement with the Drone Sports Association for broadcasting drone racing on their network for the millions of fans around the world. In only about a year and a half, drone racing has exploded in popularity with drone racing already in over 40 countries. Many analysts believe drone racing could be the next NASCAR, and regional, national, and even world competitions are pitting the best drone racers against each other in First Person View (FPV) intense competition.
The DSA Done Race Course at Lynchburg
The July event in Lynchburg, VA allowed CANA Advisors to see first-hand how this up and coming sport is shaping the world of drones. This particular event was located at a baseball stadium with a track laid out for the drones to fly through, over, and under various gates on the course in both daytime and night time action (LED lighting leading the way). It takes tremendous skill to fly these mini quadcopters aka “quads” flying at over 80 mph and takes about two minutes to fly through the course. With about 60 drone racers in attendance, the top racers qualified to attend the national competition at Governor’s Island, NY in early August.
Why are people excited about drone racing? First, it is a next generation sport that is prime for viewing on the internet and television. FPV videos of drone racing go viral on the internet with millions of viewers following their favorite drone racers. Second, there is money to be earned. The world competition in Dubai last year had over a million-dollar purse and more and more mainstream corporate sponsors are getting into the action such as AIG Insurance and GoPro. Even a few drone pilots are earning enough money through sponsorship and winning races to go full time and get on the worldwide drone racing circuit. Lastly, drone racing is just pure fun! Whether watching live or on the big screen, the action is intense and the competition is fierce. Drones crash, and there is an emotional connection to the pilots who come from all walks of life and all ages. With a relatively low cost to build a racing quad of under one thousand dollars, it should open the doors for more people to enter the sport!
Photos provided by Terry Hagen