Video games aren't the only electronic sport that is making it into the mainstream. Drone racing is about to take off and will likely be just as huge.
Drone racing is unlike any sport known to man. Its half video game, half real world competition. Competitors use purpose-built quadcopters and wear specialized goggles which allow them to compete in the race from "first person view" (FPV).
This means its like you're flying an airplane through the forest at high speed, without the possibility of killing yourself crashing into a tree. The only thing on the line is the fate your racing drone. And maybe a little pride.
On June 6th, a race was held in the old Bradmill Warehouse on the outskirts of Melbourne. On July 17th, the California State Fair will host the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships. All around the world such races are happening, either as professional events or amateur enthusiasts looking for a day of fun.
The sport isn't just for geeky drone enthusiasts either. Most of the drones are "blinged" up with LED lights and accessories, making for an amazing spectacle as brightly colored drones whiz through the air and dart around obstacles and each other.
The courses are either urban, like go-kart tracks, farms or warehouses, or rural, such as through forests or around ponds. The drones race around at up to 30 miles per hour.
A typical amateur race will have about 30 people in attendance. They usual race is a full day even, with four or five hours to practice and then a one hour long race.
The multi-rotor racing scene is taking off, with the National Drone Racing Championship regulating the more professional U.S. races and Australian company QAROP sanctioning drone races within Australia.
"I have flown model planes all my life, I have my pilots licence and fly real planes," new enthusiast Peter Richie told website Mashable. "I love the concept of FPV — putting you in the pilot's seat, without the risk of injury but all the fun."
With smaller quadcopters now on the market the racing has become easier and cheaper, both for drones but also compared to go-karts or amateur car racing. The latter two carry hefty price tags and require ongoing commitments just to participate.
Drone racing, by comparison, is cheap. Yet just as fun, if not more.
"You have complete freedom to move in any direction. Racing is even more exciting because you have to pick your lines just right and have to react in a split second when things go wrong. One mistake and the tiny gap you're aiming for becomes a wall or a tree and you're down and out," said Richie.
As the scene builds, expect sponsors to line up. Already the U.S. national championships are seeing interest from e-commerce brands like HobbyKing.com and a variety of drone suppliers.
Expect this to quickly turn to the likes of Red Bull, as well as big drone manufacturers like DJI and action sports brands like GoPro.