Admit it, you read that headline and your brain unconsciously changed it to “not a thing,” driven by a sense of hope. Sorry. The International Drone Racing Association (yes, there’s an association, and yes, it’s international) announced its broadcast partnership with none other than ESPN, who will actually broadcast drone races.
Because curling wasn’t bad enough.
In all seriousness and minus any further jokes (well, maybe just a couple), this announcement is the perfect demonstration of the lightning speed of technology adoption, along with the broader interest in advancements. When niche sports typically come on the scene, it can take years (or decades, depending on how mindlessly pointless the “sport” might seem to outsiders) for an audience to be receptive to it. As IRDA’s spokesman has stated, it’s only taken eight months to go from the first ever US championship race to an ESPN broadcast deal.
The terms of that deal are interesting, and actually speak to likes of the typical drone footage audience. The network’s online channel will live-stream the entire three-day event, and then edit it down to a one-hour “highlights reel” broadcast for television after the fact.
Naysayers may wonder what’s so fascinating about watching a bug-shaped ugly step-sibling to a radio controlled airplane, but that’s because they’re not aware of the capabilities of the drone, both while in flight and while in competition. The drones’ cameras will be feeding live footage to the broadcast, giving viewers a 360-degree bird’s eye panoramic of the course, the upcoming race being slated for New York City. That footage alone is broadcast-worthy, even without the competitive angle or the massive prize purse. Of course, the real excitement will come from seeing the capabilities that the drones’ designers have put into it; we’ve come a long way from the days when you hopped on down to the hobby shop/comic book store to upgrade to a more powerful engine for your plane or a more capable antenna for the RC. It will be exciting to see not only what drones are capable of, but also what humans can do with them.