Drone Racing Is A Sport On ESPN Now

Prepare yourself for some Dronecenter

Drones Racing In A Soap Factory

Drones Racing In A Soap Factory

An example of a drone racing course.Scrrenshot by author, from YouTube

With rotors and radios, we are witnessing the birth of a new sport. Aerial acrobatics, sharp turns and staggering climbs that NASCAR can only imagine, all done on the cheap with toys and remote controls, from woods to warehouses to special courses in Dubai. Welcome to the new age of drone racing, as it moves from backyards to broadcasts.

Today, ESPN announced it will livestream the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships, a 3-day drone racing event held on New York City's Governor's Island in early August. And then, in October, ESPN will cover the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. The drones are flown by pilots wearing goggles and watching through first person vision cameras. To outsiders, it looks like a lot of buzzing robots, but for the pilots (or anyone watching that first-person stream), it's all the thrill of a rollercoaster without the rails.

The ESPN announcement is exciting itself, but to really get into the sport, check out the huge feature on drone racing so far from Quartz. An excerpt:

What’s strange about drone racing, however, is that it’s not really like any sport that’s come before it. It’s got the fast-paced racing action of sports like Formula 1 and NASCAR, the DIY, outsidery feel of skateboarding, and the techy, sedentary nature of e-sports (or video game sports). But unlike all of these other sports, or really any sport before it, drone racing is actually best viewed from a distance, after the fact. These drones are small and travel upwards of 60 mph around large, three-dimensional racetracks. It’s hard to watch that live, in person, especially with today’s less-than-perfect technology. Millions of fans are sharing videos online of pilots juking and jiving through abandoned buildings, old power stations, parking lots, empty fields, and watching them on their phones, and laptops. But very few people are showing up to see drones races in real life. Indeed, what we may be witnessing is the birth of the first new sport of the internet age: A sport that isn’t bound by time or collective experience, but instead a sport that is atomized and doled out in digital chunks, like so many Snapchats, Instagrams, Facebook links and tweets before them. A sport for the 21st century.

And then check out a drone race in the woods in France, a drone race through an abandoned soap factory, and some flights at the World Drone Prix in Dubai.