With the huge explosion of drone use worldwide, there are many aspects of drones and drone technology that are still being explored, forcing decision-makers and regulators to either catch up or be left in the dust.
Drone racing is doing just that, so what can we expect in 2019?
1. More Televised Events
Since inking the deal in late 2016 with ESPN, the Drone Racing League has seen quite a bit of airtime. International channels have also started broadcasting various races from around the world. Events are now shown on seven channels around the world.
The first couple of seasons of televised drone racing had 55 million viewers glued to the tube in over 75 countries. The digital content that has been created by the DRL has had over twice as many views.
Pilots, of course, are popular and have their own social media followers like any other sport. With the ever-increasing popularity of drone racing, you can expect to see this continue and gain even more viewers and followers.
2. STEM Inspiration
What better way to get kids interested in STEM classes than to see their peers winning world championships? That is exactly what Wanraya Wannapong did.
The 11-year-old girl from Thailand won the women’s title at the FAI World Drone Racing Championship last November in China, snagging the $8,000 top prize.
Several schools around the country have realized that drones are an excellent way to get more kids interested in STEM and some of these schools already have varsity and junior varsity drone racing leagues.
A company called Drobotics brings drone technology to schools through summer camps for kids in first through twelfth grades. Kids in third through twelfth grades are eligible to participate in their National Aerial Robotics League, which includes such competitions as drone agility courses and search and rescue missions.
3. Gaming, Simulation and AI
Since most drones are still our fair-weather friends, you it’s difficult to get your fix when the weather isn’t cooperating. Enter the gaming and simulation arenas.
There are several titles out there for PC as well as mobile. Some come with a controller as a bundle, while others will let you bind your own controller. For Steam fans, there are also racing simulators there as well.
There are also several console and mobile drone games out there as well. We can expect this market to grow as well, not only with the addition of racing games and simulators, but with the military’s need to train pilots to use drones without sacrificing their manned flight duties.
Flying a high-speed drone takes some pretty hot skills, skills that the military needs. You can expect more involvement in high-speed drones and drone racing in 2019, along with involvement in other areas as well, like AI.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is sponsoring an innovation project this year called AlphaPilot. The goal is to develop AI for various high-speed racing drones. 2019 is gearing up to be the year of “human vs. AI” drone racing, especially with a total purse of over $2 million at stake.
This year will see further AI developments, such as for monitoring a drone race itself to better simulator and gaming environments.
4. Spur Growth in Other Areas
The high speeds of drone racing is expected to increase viewer interest in FPV racing, where participants zip through courses at speeds reaching 80 mph.
Those high-speed AI drones will probably find a home even sooner when FPV and future types of drone racing become more and more popular.
There are already a few online sports betting venues that accept bets on various drone races. Some of those already accept cryptocurrency for bets, so as the popularity of drone racing continues to grow, so will the betting websites and greater acceptance of cryptocurrency for placing bets.
5. More Level Playing (Flying!) Fields
Drone racing does not depend on human physical factors all that much, despite the fact that many current racers are male.
This year will see a high rate of female pilots since the World Air Sports Federation requires that participating teams have at least one female pilot. Drone racing is also a sport in which people with disabilities can also participate.
Look for this sport in 2019 to start being a great equalizer, especially when an 11-year-old girl can take home a championship prize just as easily as the guys can.
Disabled people are seeing that drones are a viable marketplace for them, with various groups across the country and around the world providing training to those who are interested in drones and drone racing.
And if the University of South Florida is any indicator, their Brain-Drone Race will mean that even more disabled people will be able to participate in drone racing, and participate without any limitations.
The drone industry is expected to experience continued growth throughout the next several years and probably well into the next few decades.
There are so many different applications that benefit from this technology that the popularity of drone racing will only increase. It is literally a sport that anyone can do…and take home the prize.