15-year-old Britt Luke Bannister recently took home $250,000 for beating out 150 competitors in Dubai as the first World Drone Prix champion. That’s right: Drone racing.
It’s the newest extreme sport. Interest in drone racing has gone from virtually non-existent to exploding through 2015 and 2016, as this chart from Google Trends for “drone racing” searches demonstrates.
Ars Technica provides some details on the competition:
Dubai is one of the first drone-racing events to really cater for spectators. Held at night to maximise the visual appeal, the purpose-built track was spectacularly lit and the drones’ LEDs were set to one of four colours, making it much easier to follow the action on-track. Spectators could watch a multi-camera view on big screens, too, or even watch through one of the many first-person-view (FPV) goggles placed around the track for a truly immersive, pilots-eye perspective.
And, if that wasn’t enough, commentary was provided by top pilots such as Nowak and Steele Davis to help introduce the pilots, explain the intricacies of the sport, and give perspective on some of the tactical decisions being made by the teams.
In 2005, I predicted video games would become a mass medium spectator sport. During the intervening 16 years, we’ve seen the video game industry rival the popularity of Hollywood, we’ve watched Hollywood churn out movies based on video games, witnessed the rise of Pew Die Pie, a YouTube star who built his empire on doing narrated walk-throughs of video games; and we’ve seen Amazon pay $1.1 billion for Twitch.tv, a channel where visitors watch people play video games.
We also saw the commercialization of drone technology and GoPro popularizing the first-person video format.
All this created the perfect storm to position drone racing is the next evolution of virtual spectator sport.
As a live sport, it hasn’t got a lot to offer spectators. There is nothing intrinsically compelling about watching a small drone fly around. But when you add the point of view of the pilot, then you’ve got an exciting sport. Drone pilots navigate by wearing goggles that display a drone’s-eye-view via the on-board camera, which is also live-streamed.
And there is your spectator sport. It also makes for compelling content that will help drive the popularity of the sport.
FPV Drone Race
Here’s a First Person View (FPV)drone competition that took place in Australia.
World Drone Prix
Here’s the final race of the World Drone Prix.