If you're looking for an obvious example of how drone technology has captured the imagination of the public, there's only one sector to focus on: The rapidly emerging drone entertainment scene. You've probably seen plenty of coverage of Intel's awesome light shows, but the true box office hit on the horizon is first person view (FPV) drone racing.
Depending on who you ask, FPV racing started as a way to pass the time for a small community of hobbyists in either Australia or France. It was around long before camera drones were mainstream - so much so that keen flyers had to build their own racers from DIY kits and spare parts.
In recent years what used to be an underground scene has gained a huge amount of attention. And it's easy to see why: This is a sport that combines the best of a number of disciplines. It’s gaming, virtual reality, competitive racing and DIY drone making all at once. That’s a heady concoction for any tech lover, so it’s no surprise the sport has taken off in such a short space of time.
Driving that momentum is a number of organizations staking a claim to be recognized as the official platforms for FPV racing nationally and internationally. These include the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA), MultiGP and the Drone Racing League (DRL). Each has benefitted from exposure from broadcasters including NBC and ESPN, but one is leading the way in terms of investment, hype and end product: DRL.
Where to watch drone racing
One problem with drone racing is that it lacks certain ingredients to be a successful spectator sport. It's thrilling when you've got the headset on and you're immersed in the race, but from the outside things are happening so fast that it can be difficult to keep track of.
DRL has done more than any other organization with respect to that issue. After raising over $20m and heavily investing in the latest in FPV technology, the Drone Racing League is now airing in cleverly edited clips on ESPN in the US and Sky Sports in Europe. These shows feature interviews with pilots, slow-motion replays, access to the live feed that the pilot sees and much more.
Now in its second season, DRL is taking FPV racing on the road. As well holding races in Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans, the 2017 season will culminate with events in Munich and London.
Coverage of the second race of the season, Atlanta Aftermath, starts Tuesday June 27th at 8pm EST on ESPN2. And there's much more FPV action on the same network through until the end of July.
How to get started in the world of FPV drone racing
With more and more people taking part and watching the sport, becoming a professional FPV pilot is now a genuine opportunity providing you've got the skills - Just ask British teenager Luke Bannister, who led his team to a $250,000 win at the Drone World Prix in Dubai last year.
Whether or not you're not in it for the big bucks, it's easy enough to get involved. There are three things you're going to need: an RC controller, an FPV headset and, of course, a drone. Having some friends to race against wouldn't be a bad idea either!
Experienced, competitive pilots will often tinker with their drone or even build it from scratch. For beginners, your best bet is to buy a ready to fly (RTF) or a bind 'n' fly (BNF) model. These will get you off the ground as soon as possible, and plenty are available for under $500.
As you'll know if you've watched any drone racing before, pilots are faced with tricky courses and plenty of obstacles. Once your drone is up and running, why not try and recreate some of these as part of your practice?
Feel like you're ready to test yourself against other pilots? Here's a state-by-state list of local leagues and meetups for you to join.
Drone racing is certainly one way to get comfortable behind the controls and improve your skills. If that wasn't enough to inspire your inner pilot, check out our post on reasons you should become a drone pilot.