Commercializing the Sport of Drone Racing

Recap of Previous Posts

Our first post offered a brief company overview of Skynex Global Drones, Ltd. Our second post examined the definition of "drone", and our third post examined the meaning and understanding of "drones" in popular culture, and how Hollywood, for the most part, places drones in a negative spotlight by depicting them as autonomous military and intelligence killing machines. Our fourth post nominated the H520 hexacopter drone, a highly versatile commercial industrial drone, as the best drone to look forward to in 2018. A follow-up on our third post, our fifth post offered a glimpse of how Steven Spielberg, through the movie "*Batteries Not Included", depicted drones as friendly subservient machines that can come to the aid of humans. Our sixth post looked at how the meaning of "drone" was taking a new meaning through the sports and entertainment sector, notably by looking at the Drone Racing League (DRL). Our seventh post looked at the international dimensions of drone racing with the International Drone Racing League (IDRA). As a follow up to posts six and seven, this post looks at yet another drone racing league, MultiGP. Unique about MultiGP is the decentralized organizational model it adopts, a model that is arguably better suited to a 21st century world connected by a decentralized communication system, i.e. the Internet.

About MultiGP

Overview

MultiGP is yet another drone racing league to have successfully emerged from the growing popularity of drone racing. [1] Self-proclaimed as the world’s “largest drone racing league”, MultiGP is perhaps more properly characterized as a facilitator to the modern sport of drone racing. Local drone racing leagues can register as a local chapter under the umbrella of MultiGP. The advantage for local leagues to register as a chapter with MultiGP is to take full advantage of the league’s organizational features and drone racing solutions: “MultiGP assists our chapters by acting as an invaluable resource by providing them with solutions to make their events organized and fun, not time consuming and burdensome”.[2] How does MultiGP differ from the DRL or IDRA?

Distinguishing MultiGP

Unlike the DRL and IDRA, MultiGP adopts an innovative, modern, futuristic, and decentralized organizational model that is arguably better suited to a 21st century world interconnected by a massive, decentralized communication system, i.e. the Internet. This is in contrast to the DRL or the IDRA, which sought to emulate and adapt the sport of drone racing to the more traditional and conventional model of a professional sports league. Another difference between MultiGP and the DRL seems to be the fame and glamour that attaches to one versus the other. Whereas MultiGP is much more rooted in, and composed of large numbers of local drone racing leagues around the world, the DRL features a single centralized league that seems to be focused on entertaining a viewership through major commercial television/sports channels, for instance, TSN. Arguably, this approach permeates the DRL's drone racing pilots with a more professional character. Directly contributing to this last point is the fact that whereas MultiGP relies on willing amateur drone racers to form leagues, drone racing pilots in the DRL are limited to a few recruited pilots that demonstrate the best drone racing abilities. Viewed differently, is seems more likely that drone pilots from MultiGP would be recruited by, and ascend to the professional Drone Racing League, than a drone racing pilot from the DRL might be recruited by MultiGP. Also interesting to note is that like the DRL but unlike the IDRA, MultiGP conceptualizes the sport of drone racing as an individual sport. In contrast, the IDRA conceptualizes the sport of drone racing as a team-based effort, with each team being comprised of four (4) pilots, and a pit crew collaborating on every drone race. Whether the sport will ultimately take the form of an solo sport where each individual pilot competes against one another, like sprinting, or whether competitive efforts will adopt a team-based approach, like most televised professional sports, is still in the making. 

Another critical and noteworthy difference between the DRL, MultiGP, and the IDRA, is the fact that the DRL, unlike MultiGP and the IDRA, produces its own FPV racing drones in-house, such that every drone racing pilot flies the same FPV racing drone. The obvious advantage of this approach is to ensure an even playing field for all drone racing pilots participating in any one race. The sport of drone racing, as envisioned by the DRL, thus becomes a competition of human abilities, before and above all else, rather than a competition of technology. Compared to any other professional sport, whether it be sprinting, boxing, basketball, hockey, or football, this would appear to be the right approach in the sense that the sport is a measure of sheer human abilities. Explained differently, the DRL takes the same approach to drone racing as Indy Cars takes towards motorsport racing. Indy Cars, as with the DRL, is a “specs series” where all the cars are the same, come from the same manufacturer, and have the same bodywork. The IDRA and MultiGP, on the other hand, adopt the Formula 1 approach whereby each team constructs their own distinctive race cars within a set of pre-defined standards and rules. MultiGP conceptualization of the sport of drone racing integrates an element of technological innovation into the competition. To ensure some degree of standardization, MultiGP developed five (5) different classes of racing drones: tiny (19” x 19” – 726 mm x 483mm); Whoop (30” x 30” – 762mm x 762mm); 3S (5’ x 5’ – 1.52m x 1.52m); 4S (5’ x’5 – 1.52m x 1.52m); and open (5’ x 5’ – 1.52 x 1.52).[1] Interestingly, however, MultiGP, states that the reasons for having classes of racing drones are the following:

“1. They level the playing field so one pilot doesn’t have an advantage over another by using more powerful equipment. This allows the pilot’s skill to win the race, not their equipment. 2. Aircraft builds can be planned with confidence that they will be accepted into competition. 3. To ensure radio equipment is compatible with fellow pilot’s equipment as to not causer interference”.[2]

If the aforementioned reasons are accepted as the major premises underpinning MultiGP’s conceptualization of the sport of drone racing, it would then seem like the best solution to the sport of drone racing would be the DRL’s approach, i.e. in-house production of a single racing drone to be used by all drone racing pilots. Indeed, in a technologically advanced sport like drone racing, one would think that even the slightest difference in detail could of the potential of introducing an ocean of difference into the final outcome of a race. In that sense, it becomes much more difficult to attribute the final outcome of a MultiGP or IDRA drone race to sheer human skills and abilities, as with the DRL

Growing the Sport of Drone Racing

Some of the innovative solutions offered by MultiGP include RaceSync., a proprietary race frequency management software that “assigns racing slots and video frequencies in real time”. Using this software, drone racing pilots are able to create individual profiles, enlist their racing drone, and check-in via their smart phone on any given race day,[3] after which each drone pilot and racing drone is automatically and conveniently assigned a race slot and optimum video frequency. Other solutions offered by MultiGP include, for instance, racing gates as well as race flags designed to accommodate sponsor panels. Race organizers can also create their own unique and creative race tracks. MultiGP also offers a set of official standardized drone racing rules, drone specification classes, and other freely downloadable documents. MultiGP in addition to promoting the growth of drone racing across the world through prizes, MultiGP also contributes to move technological drone innovation forward by offering amateur drone hobbyists who build and create their own drones, a global platform through which they can test and display their racing drones against other likeminded participants.

Conversely, if one views technological innovation as a fundamental purpose and objective to be achieved through the competitive forces of drone racing, then the MultiGP and IDRA approach to allowing pilots and drone racing teams to build their own drones within pre-defined classes of drones is unquestionably a more desirable approach to developing the sport of drone racing. Whether the future sport of drone racing should evolve from a competition driven by sheer human skills and abilities, or whether it is a competition in which technological innovation is but one measurement of the human skills and abilities that are at play in the sport of drone racing, is still in the making. It may well be that both approaches will play an important symbiotic relationship in growing the future sport of drone racing. One thing that remains certain when discussing the entertainment offered through the DRL, IDRA, and MultiGP, is that all are playing an invaluable role in redefining the meaning and purpose of drones.