Drone racing more or less came out of nowhere to become a popular fringe sport in the United States. While drones have now been around as consumer-friendly tech items for years now, the fact that a professional league (the DRL) has already developed and started being televised is really pretty remarkable. Even so, it is appropriate to call it a “fringe sport” and nothing more, at this stage. And that invites questions as to how it could grow into something more.
Drone Racing Sport
Plenty of different things could ultimately lead to this sort of growth, but four, in particular, stand out as near-future possibilities.
1. Better Television Slots
Drone racing has actually done remarkably well from an exposure standpoint. It’s for this reason that it’s commonly compared to eSports – a tech-based fringe “sport” that experienced astronomical growth over a very short time and now enjoys viewership comparable to that of some popular sporting contests. The Drone Racing League has deals with SkySports and ESPN for live broadcasting on TV already, and viewership has been decent. However, it almost goes without saying that drone racing would get even bigger if its competitions were given more attractive time slots and channel placement.
2. Legal Sports Betting
Sports betting around the world tend to cover a lot more activities and specific topics than people realize. Indeed, an article on this very topic from the UK specifically notes that sports betting sites cover “even the most obscure events” from around the world. And compared to things like football, basketball, and soccer, that’s just what drone racing is! What we’ll be watching for however is the progress states in the U.S. make toward legalizing sports betting now that the Supreme Court has made it okay to do so. Should sports betting really take off in the U.S., where the DRL is biggest, it would likely bring more attention to the sport.
3. Mainstream Virtual Reality
What a lot of people who haven’t watched drone races don’t realize is that virtual reality is actually a major part of the whole concept. Drones are too small and fast to be too much fun to watch from the outside, even if it’s kind of cool to see them zipping around while they’re lit up. Instead, the best viewership is from a drone perspective via tiny mounted cameras on the actual drones. These both enable the pilots to fly accurately and enable spectators to see interesting angles. And as VR becomes more widely used, it stands to reason people will start tuning in to VR races in a way that makes them feel like they’re piloting the drones themselves. This would be a unique sports viewing experience and one that would attract a lot more fans.
4. Celebrity Involvement
There aren’t many better marketing tools than celebrities. This is why we see famous people doing commercials, and sometimes even hear their voices subtly impacting ads they’re not visibly involved with. Now, imagine the impact it might have if a celebrity started being open about his or her interest in the DRL, or sponsored a particular pilot, or even started racing! We do know of some prominent celebrities who own drones, and their ranks are likely growing. But so far we haven’t found an A-lister with the power to bring real attention to the sport. It’s probably just a matter of time.