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Dubai drone racing competition goes live on TV


11-03-2016 16:54 BJT

Now let's take a look at drone racing in Dubai. At this year's event, the competition is no longer exclusive to in-field drone enthusiasts. In fact, it has swiftly grown into a sports game that goes live on TV. Jade Barker tells us more.

It’s super-fast, super-competitive and super-tech savvy. Welcome to world of drone racing…a sport that’s taking off…
"A year ago drone racing didn’t exist. It’s a growing sport it’s a new sport. It’s exciting, it marries technology sport competition and storytelling altogether and that’s really what you’ll want in good entertainment and good sport." said Jon Ollwether,COO of Aerobo.
In recent weeks several international broadcasters have signed up to televise races…meaning these unmanned aerial vehicles are now whizzing their way onto our TV screens.

"We're going to begin airing our sports content with our global distribution partners ESPN, Sky Sports and ProSieben. It's going to be the first chance for an audience around the world to actually see competitive drone racing on TV." said Nick Horbaczewski, CEO of DRL.

These networks have signed on to broadcast a series of races by the 15 month old Drone Racing League, with Sky also agreeing to invest 1 million dollars in DRL.

Earlier this month Eurosport also joined the broadcasting race, signing a one-year deal with DR1 Racing, a Los Angeles-based drone racing organization.

"I think the appeal draws left right and center. You get people who are interested in racing, you get people who are interested in esports, you get people who are interested in technology all funneled to the same place. I think that’s what networks like ESPN are looking at in this sport. And really doubling down on their bets for growth. "Jon Ollwether said.

Drone racing goes one step even further than e-sports in combining the physical and virtual. Known as FPV racing- or first person view- pilots use headsets to see through the drone’s camera as they use a controller to fly around complex obstacle courses.

But it’s been tough for race organizers to figure out a good way for spectators to follow the action.

Jon Ollwether said: "In terms of the challenges that drone racing faces – there are technological challenges, there are regulatory challenges and there are safety challenges."

"The other big challenge is it's just very hard to film them. These things are the size of a dinner plate and they go 80 mph. We're racing them on complex three dimensional courses which is unlike any other form of racing. It took us the better part of a year of experimentation and technology development to get the right know how and the right equipment to film the drones in a compelling way. But now that we have, it's fantastic because the racing is exciting, you can follow the action - who's winning, who's losing, you see the crashes - so, it's very exciting. It just was a huge challenge to figure it out."Nick said.

But so far the TV audience for drone races has been small. Only 223,000 people watched the US Drone Racing Nationals that were held in NYC in September and broadcast on ESPN, according to Nielson data. That’s not even a blip compared to the 13 million viewers on average that watched a Monday night football game last season.

But broadcasters and the sport’s boosters are betting it’ll only be a matter of time before new sport hits the big league…

"There’s still many challenges and kinks to be worked for this burgeoning sport. But if money can talk, the investment the big networks are pouring into broadcasting these competitions perhaps shows the sky’s the limit for drone racing.

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