Many casual observers realized drone racing had become a thing when they discovered last month that a British teen had landed prize money of $250,000 – yes, $250,000 – after winning the inaugural World Drone Prix event in Dubai.
The sport’s growing profile comes off the back of the rapid rise in popularity of remotely controlled quadcopters over the last 18 months or so. And while plenty of hobbyists are getting their kicks from grabbing stunning aerial footage with their camera-equipped drones, others have honed their flying skills to become expert racers, with many joining newly formed drone leagues across the country.
Now ESPN wants a piece of the action, on Wednesday announcing a multi-layer international distribution deal with the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) that’ll bring live drone racing to our screens.
The sports network’s first IDRA event will be the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships taking place on Governors Island in New York City over three days from August 5. All the action will be live-streamed on ESPN3 and broadcast later as a one-hour special on one of its TV channels.
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Drone racers pilot their flying machines across specially designed racecourses, whizzing around obstacles and buzzing through loop gates at breathtaking speed. Onboard cameras relay the action back to racers who use goggles to view a live video feed of their copter.
Fans, too, can experience the exhilarating first-person view of a racing drone by watching with their own goggles, online, or on TV.
“Drone racing gives anyone the ability to fly like a superhero,” IDRA chairman Dr. Scot Refsland commented. “Because everyone can experience the thrill of racing as if they were sitting in the drone cockpit, the sport is skyrocketing. To go from a first ever, U.S. national drone race to partnering with ESPN for international distribution in eight months is truly a sign of great things ahead.”