THE EVER-MUTATING CYBERPUNK SPORT
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Our world becomes more ruled by technology with each passing day, as we look to our smartphones and computers for purpose and meaning. We search for information we will never retain, and augment our actions into experiences we could only dream of. One of those experiences is taking shape at a rate that, just a few years ago, would have seemed impossible.

Drone Racing.

Once the lowly kiosk quadcopter industry, we have found new purpose for this quickly evolving technology, from film-making, to adrenaline-inducing FPV (first person view) racing. Drone Racing has taken shape in multiple forms the last several years. What started as an Australian underground community that spanned abandoned warehouses and forests, has evolved into an arena sport, where racers traverse across neon-ringed obstacle courses at breakneck speed.

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Lightweight carbon fiber frames, with coin sized cameras speed through flag-labeled checkpoints as racers compete to be the fastest in what looks to be a sport straight out of a video game. With each passing month, more passion-fueled companies continue to pop up, finding more ways to shed weight, and thus, more ways to go faster. Headsets cover the eyes of racers, as they feel their controls from muscle memory and instinct, in the hopes of winning first place, or at the very least, surviving the course.

Racers can come from any background, with only a love for the hobby, and an addiction to an unbridled adrenaline rush being their only motivation. The FPV headset shutting out their senses in place of an aerial peripheral, whose very existence they are about to risk for victory. On the surface, this is a sport with merit. It is racing, with none of the risk. Then why is it in such danger?

The drone industry is very much one crippled by restrictions and rules. The FAA places quadcopters and drones under strict license these days, worried about rogue pilots obstructing air space and danger zones to get a better look at an unknown situation. Many racers however, look past these regulations. They keep that “Underground Spirit” that this sport was founded on, refusing to adhere to regulations that they feel negatively affect a sport that they have worked hard to help form.

With that being said, it's easy to see the two worlds that Drone Racing will inevitably inhabit: The flourishing neon-rimmed arena sport that follows the rules in an attempt to break through the “mainstream” barrier, and the underground explorers of cavernous corridors and concrete jungles only looking for a rush that they are unable to find elsewhere.

At its current pace, drone racing is expected to become one of the largest hobby industries in the world within the next 5 years, but these threatening regulations could force it out of the limelight. With its rogue racers taking stand, and the internet providing all the necessary tools to keep the sport alive, we can expect drone racing to flourish in any number of ways.

For more information on Drone Racing, and a great example of the future of the sport, check out the Drone Racing League(http://thedroneracingleague.com/).

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BY JOSH LANPHEAR