Dressed in one of the most sophisticated close-fitting eyeglasses, with side shields meant to protect his eyes from glare, Steve Zoumas, a pilot, flies at low altitude as he approached the 20-foot-tall metal-framed box ringed with neon final gate—all to the amusement of the the crowd who roared “Whoa!” as fragments of his airplane, which had hit a concrete wall, went high up the sky.
As though to imply “I can make it through the fire unscathed,” Zoumas made it out safe and sound. The same cannot be said of his drone, though. He then took off his glasses and made his way to the pilots’ lounge to watch what had happened. With his drone no more, he knew immediately that it’s tough luck!
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“I was pushing it that lap,” said a visibly upset Zoumas. “I just wanted to put on a show for the crowd.”
The sport drone racing is a soon-to-be sporting activity where both men and women would be pitched against other competitors to fly remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles for a total of 80 miles per hour along narrow openings. Unlike in other regular sporting events, here, both players and spectators gather together in a deserted debris-laden mall made up of course-marking gates across two floors.
The fans, on the other hand, sit on a section of bare benches in tiers without a roof like what’s found at most outdoor sporting events, passing around antenna-fitted glasses so they could hold sights of the pilot’s view. The television sets are wide enough to display different camera angles.
Most pilots consider racing the game of their lives. Every one of them who takes to the sport puts in a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their drones are the best out there yet. Tens of thousands of dollars are put into customizing these drones and getting them in the best shape possible. They go to any length to ensure that drone frames, batteries, camera mounts, motors, and propellers are in the best possible shape.
Thirty-one-year-old pilot Ken Loo, alias “Flying Bear,” went as far as to state how he and his wife had to put off child-bearing just so he could have enough time for racing. He further stated how much he is willing to give up his well-paying job in Silicon Valley without batting an eye lid provided he could fly drones for pay.
On its own part, sports broadcast giant ESPN has acceded to broadcast a drone special on its ESPN3 platform in fall.
The game is winning, as has been shown by the World Drone Prix, which recently took place in Dubai, where the winning pilot took home a whopping sum of $250,000 in cash prize.
When it comes to the audience, things wouldn’t stay the same in this regard, if as expected, the racing game warms its way into most hearts and households. Nick Horbaczewski, a serial entrepreneur and founder of the Drone Racing League last year, claims he knows exactly what it takes to achieve this feat.
He said that to get the audience feel the same excitement as the pilots, his league lights up each quadcopter and its pilot’s glasses with matching colored LEDs, which helps spectators trace the diminutive speeding drones. It’s the reason pilots wear T-shirts adorned with monikers that read KittyCopter, Rekrek, and Zoomas. Pilot’s background created for fictional characters and sleek editing build up the drama for videos uploaded online.