For those of you unfamiliar with rc quadcopter drone racing, it started out as a group of drone enthusiasts who would create their own courses in the woods, abandoned buildings, and sports arenas, then meet together to compete in 80 mph races.
The racers fly their quadcopters by remote control and, with the aid of goggles, are able to view the race in first-person mode by video cameras mounted on the front of the drone. The racers must then maneuver their vehicles through the course and avoid the obstacles, all while reaching speeds of up to 80 mph. Needless to say that there are plenty of wrecks!
Due to the unique locations of the courses and the size of the vehicles, drone racing is not currently a live spectator sport. However, drone racing videos are gaining popularity on sites like YouTube, with some videos amassing over a million views!
With the increasing interest in drone racing, a professional racing league emerged. Nicholas Horbaczewski is the founder and CEO of the new Drone Racing League (DRL). The DRL had six races in 2016 with a World Drone Racing Championship held at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii in October.
Each race consisted of several rounds. Dozens of competitors started the competition, but each round consisted of four hand-picked competitors they competed for the fastest round. The top eight speeds in the qualifying round advanced to the semifinals and the top four speeds there advanced to the finals. In the finals, points were awarded to the first, second and third-place finishers. Points were accumulated over the racing season and racers accumulating enough points over the season advanced to the World Drone Racing Championship.
In each race, the DRL actually provided the drones to be used in the race in order to keep the playing field level. They bring about 100 drones so that they can swap them out in case of a crash. The drones are similar to the ones the racers use on their own and feedback from the racers was taken at the end of the race to refine the drones for the next race.
The newly established sport is getting a lot of comparisons to NASCAR; some even calling it a cross between a video game and Formula One racing. The sport is certainly enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity in such a short time.
The sport of rc quadcopter drone racing may have started out as a group of hobbyists having fun, but its rapid growth and increasing interest has even started drawing investors. Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, invested one million dollars in the DRL.
Even though the popularity of drones is surging right now, the technology is still really in its infancy. As the technology advances, it’s sure to advance the sport of rc quadcopter drone racing as well. The DRL is only in its early development, so we can only expect great things to come in the sport!