More than 800 live spectators and more than 45,000 online watched as The Generals, one of Pro Aerial League’s six professional drone racing teams, won the League’s 2017-18 season championship last weekend.
Drone racing can be one of those sports that is awesome and exciting for participants, and pretty cool to watch in the FPV video format: but less than thrilling for spectators in real time watching drones whizz by too fast to track. That’s changing, as the new Pro Aerial League introduces full contact and spectator focused drone team racing.
“Our primary focus is to introduce new people who might have seen drone racing on television or heard about all of the drone related industry careers being created, and introduce them to all aspects of the drone experience,” says Scott Whiteker, Pro Aerial’s CEO.
It’s a totally unique mashup of demolition derby, drone racing, and extreme sports – and a drone enthusiast’s dream. Teams of 6 pilots plus a captain rotate team roles: pilots, pit crew, and runners, who handle pit stops and crashes. Pro Aerial has a unique race format: (4) 20 minute quarters of nonstop racing are held in a 200′ x 85′ course. The smaller course allows spectators to see the drones and root for their favorite teams, while the full-contact aspect of the contest adds another element of chance.
Founded in June of 2017, the Seattle, Washington-based league has 6 teams: the Aces, Air Devils, Carbon, Cyclones, Generals and Renegades. With Sports on Facebook as their broadcast partner, enthusiasts from all over the world can watch events. The league is a franchise model – open for expansion well beyond the Northwest, and viewers may be able to watch their favorites in person at a venue near them soon.
Tickets to the live race get viewers into the arena to see the race – but at some races, other activities are available to bring enthusiasts into the drone industry. Opportunities to participate in hand on educational and entertainment activities are also offered through partners and sponsors: learn about how to fly a drone (Hobbytown USA), pilot ride a longs (Fat Shark), virtual reality (HTC Vive), flight simulators (Liftoff), laser tag, local drone clubs and STEM programs (participate at no cost), build a drone (Fly Blocks), buy the right drone for a beginner, and more.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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