Drone racing coming soon to ESPN

ESPN’s newest sport has everything an adrenaline junkie could ask for: thrilling high speeds, nail-biting tight turns, and, of course, devastating crashes.

Who are these daring up-and-coming athletes?

Drone racers, of course.

On Wednesday the Drone Racing League announced a partnership with ESPN that will bring the sport into the homes of Americans this fall. The nascent sport joins a host of other offbeat ESPN programming, including spelling bees and competitive eating. And the drone racing debut comes as the tiny flying machines are growing in popularity — causing increasing worry — in Silicon Valley and beyond. The Federal Aviation Administration this summer released new rules regulating the use of commercial drones.

Each Drone Racing League competition will feature six pilots controlling the drones remotely while wearing goggles that let them see footage from the cockpit. They’ll zoom around three-dimensional courses such as abandoned malls, NFL stadiums and subway tunnels, hitting speeds of more than 80 mph. The 2016 broadcast season will feature 25 of the fastest pilots from more than eight countries, with the winner crowned the “world’s greatest drone pilot.”

“Coverage of DRL lets us merge storytelling, technology and competition into compelling weekly content that we believe will appeal to a growing audience,” Matthew Volk, ESPN Director of programming and acquisitions, wrote in a news release. “We look forward to delivering events and programming to passionate fans of this emerging sport.”

The broadcasts will begin with an “Intro to drone racing” episode Thursday evening at 8 p.m. on ESPN2, and the first race will be shown at 7 p.m. Oct. 23. The climax of the season will be the 2016 World Championship on Nov. 20. For the full schedule, click here.

The Drone Racing League, a New York-based company founded last year, also announced the close of a $12 million investment round led by RSE Ventures and Lux Capital.

Photo: Drone racing is coming to ESPN this fall. (Drone Racing  League)


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