Drone Racing: a new frontier in sport
19th June 2017
Account Director, Joe McDermott introduces us to the futuristic world of ‘Drone Racing’. Attending the first ever professional Drone Race last week, McDermott guides us through both this new sporting frontier and its embrace of Virtual Reality.
With audiences growing steadily – 2016 Nielson data reported 33m in TV viewers and an additional 40m online followers – the Drone Racing Leage is attracting attention in both the corporate and consumer worlds.
In fact, the sport has just announced a $20 million funding injection, with the DRL now backed by corporate giants Allianz and Sky, among others. The league also signed a deal with Betfair, allowing the betting operator to open markets on its UK events.
And so it was at the Alexandra Palace that the Allianz 2017 World Championship Race took place. It was the UK’s first professional drone race and the final competition of a long season for the DRL.
Weaving their high-performance drones through the 3-dimensional race course, six of the world’s top drone racers battled it out across seven heats in a bid to be crowned World Drone Racing Champion. Each assigned a distinct colour, the pilots played to a sell-out crowd as their machines became blurs of light hurtling through the narrow doorways and neon-lit obstacles.
With speeds of up to 130 KPH, crashes were inevitable – and frequently spectacular – and it proved to be a rare sight to see all six competitors cross the finish line.
However, with a bank of 300 Racer3 drones waiting in the wings (all ready to go at a moment’s notice), reckless racing was not just tolerated but actively encouraged. Pilots pushed their machines, and reflexes, to the limit with tight turnings and sharp drops as they sought to outfox and overtake their rivals.
As with any modern sport, the competition had been designed with spectators in mind. As well as the brightly lit track, fans were encouraged to experience the thrills of drone racing first-hand through VR headsets that linked to the same live-feed that the pilots were using to navigate the course. At the same time, each race was accompanied by live commentary, keeping track of course records and the all-important point standings that would eventually determine the World Champion.
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