And Now There’s Professional Drone Racing

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It seems like it was only a few years ago that drones were considered cutting edge technological playthings. As with things like Google Glass or VR headsets, we would occasionally see high-end versions of personal drones online or in magazines and wonder when they’d become available for mass consumption. But unlike Google Glass and VR headsets, which have remained largely exclusive to tech insiders and those willing to shell out a ton of money for personal devices, drones went to market pretty quickly. For a while now, they’ve been relatively easy to acquire, with the result that people have had time to come up with all kinds of fun uses for them.

Some of these uses generate a great deal of publicity. For instance, Amazon is still making noise about a drone delivery system that would see people receiving products they ordered online in a matter of hours, dropped off at front doors by flying robots. You may also have heard that drones are changing the real estate business, or that the future of sports photography (and event photography for that matter) depends on drones. There just seem to be countless ideas out there, most of them for commercial use but conceived with nothing more than a small personal drone you could buy at the local Apple Store.

Then, of course, there are the more private drone shenanigans going on all around us. People are increasingly using drones just to have fun, whether that means flying them around to explore, taking pictures of events or wildlife or, increasingly, competing with one another. Indeed, the inevitable development of drone racing has finally come upon us, and it appears to be giving birth to a professional sport with shocking swiftness.

Indeed, one recent report had some fascinating information regarding the growth of drone racing. For instance, ESPN has reportedly agreed to stream some of the major drone racing championships (the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships and the World Drone Racing Championships) on its ESPN3 streaming platform. We’ve also seen the owner of the Miami Dolphins invest millions in the Drone Racing League (or DRL), which as of now is the leading organization in the sport. One man heavily involved in the development of drone racing has predicted that by 2020 the sport could have viewership akin to that of the NFL.

Now it appears that even the betting markets are beginning to take notice, which tends to happen with any serious sport. While no major sports books are actually offering betting on drone racing events just yet, bookmakers have taken note of the rise of the sport and are keeping an eye on how it’s progressing. They want to see progress and stability in the leading leagues, but it’s clear that if those leagues keep running events and interest and viewership continue increase, betting will soon follow. When the same thing happened with eSports we quickly saw just how passionately people were following video game competitions, as some of the betting numbers matched those for major sporting events.

Add it all up and the ingredients are there for an incredibly exciting new form of competition based entirely on advanced technology. It’s a pretty exciting concept, and the nature of it – it’s really just pure fun – offsets some of the stranger drone developments we’ve started to see.

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