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Future Tech: 

The Drone Racing League is set to takeoff in 2016


The Drone Racing League has already interested big money investors.

If not yet exactly mainstream, drones are becoming more advanced and more popular by the day. Soon they could deliver your online shopping (if Google and Amazon have their way), and next year might even see them compete in a viable spectator sport.

It’s called the Drone Racing League, and, although already underway, it’s been tipped to really takeoff in the coming year.

The sport itself is probably just what you expect – robots, controlled by people, flying their way around a course cheered on by a crowd of supporters. The difference is that those supporters aren’t filling out a stadium or racetrack, but sat at home living the experience through a virtual reality headset.

“It’s really visual, it’s really immersive, it’s engaging and fast,” says league CEO Nick Horbaczewski, speaking to Wired. “It has all the heritage of racing, but it’s in three dimensions.

“Whenever I talk about drone racing, people mention the pod-racing scene in Star Wars. Or the speeder bikes on Endor. And most of that was CGI, so we have to bridge the reality of racing with peoples’ sci-fi movie expectations. And I think we can do that. That’s what we’re working on with our content … Flying robots with cameras on them. It’s pretty cool.”

Horbaczewski mentions content, and that’s because he sees the Drone Racing League as a production company as much as it is a competitive league. Each drone is fitted with the very best camera equipment so the team can broadcast high-quality footage in a live environment. The viewer can then choose how they view the race, switching from drone to drone as they see fit.

Drone racing is already being done elsewhere, with new ‘pilots’ popping up on YouTube every day to showcase their skills. The Drone Racing League, though, could give these hobbyists a proper platform, uploading race footage onto its website – a content hub partly modeled on the online gaming community. Twitch, the leading video platform for online gamers, currently attracts over 100 million visitors per month.

The Drone Racing League is some way off that – it hasn’t even posted its first video – but the eyes of investors are already lighting up with giant dollar symbols. Earlier this year, venture capital firm RSE Ventures backed the Drone Racing League to the tune of $1 million.

With six races lined up across the US next year, and the imminent release of Oculus Rift, the sky could be the limit.

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