Drone Racing: It’s All About the Fans – Scot Refsland, IDRA

Scot refslandAre you ready for Drone Nationals?

Whether you know what that means or not, you’re going to enjoy hearing from today’s guest as we get ready for the summer’s biggest drone racing event.

Scot Refsland is the Chairman of the International Drone Racing Association and RotorSports Media.  The IDRA is a leading drone racing organization, having created the California Cup and hosted the World Drone Prix in Dubai, while RotorSports is the company behind Drone Nationals and Drone Worlds.  In 2015, the two companies joined forces to create a leading powerhouse, capable of promoting drone racing to an international audience.  Earlier this year, IDRA, announced it had signed a multi-year, international media distribution deal with ESPN, bringing the new sport of drone racing to the worldwide leader in sports. On this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Scott talks about the Drone Nationals and Drone World’s racing events and how the deal with ESPN represents a major shift forward for the sport of drone racing.

In This Episode

  • [01:53] Drone Worlds Update. More than 40 countries have committed to the Drone Worlds in October 2016.
  • [02:24] Drone Nationals. Drone Nationals will be held on Governor’s Island in New York City.  The facility has been used a military installation so its already set with flight paths and support facilities.  About 100 pilots will compete at the Drone Nationals for an opportunity to compete at Drone Worlds.
  • [03:53] Qualifying Rounds. The qualifying races are open to everyone.  The races are sponsored by a various organizations around the county that have a reputation for produced high quality, competitive events.  Between May and August, 14-15 qualifying races will be held.  The race courses are set by the respective organizer, but all have challenges designed to produce the best drone pilots for the Nationals.
  • [05:40] What to Expect at Drone Nationals. Drone Nationals will be “fan focused”, rather than being “pilot focused”.  The four day event will be set up as a festival event with a variety of activities, foods and entertainment.  Two race courses will be run at the same time all day. Fans can watch racing or partake in the festival activities.  In addition, the course will be designed around the fans, so that people will be able to watch the races from observation tubes the traverse the track.  The goal is to create a more fan friendly event.  A lot of programming will be pushed to TV and cell phones via periscope and ESPN.
  • [10:17] ESPN Joins the Team.  The International Drone Racing Association signed a multi-year deal with ESPN to broadcast drone racing.  Drone racing addresses the new market that ESPN is interested.  ESPN will allow people to watch drone racing from anywhere in the world.  With ESPN, other major advertisers and content providers have joined the team.
  • [12:00] ESPN’s Impact On Drone Nationals.  ESPN’s experience in televised sports entertainment adds a high level of production value to the broadcasts.  The story of drone racing will be told from a very different perspective, yet for those that watch ESPN, it will have a familiar feel.
  • [13:41] From Drone Nationals to Drone Worlds.  Teams will be able to send at least 5 people but larger teams may be able to send many more pilots.  Pilots on smaller teams may find themselves competing in several different type of races at Drone Worlds, whereas, pilots on larger teams, may compete in a few races that fall within their specialty skill set.
  • [14:41] Drone Racing Then-And-Now.  Six months ago, drone racing was just beginning to gain attention.  Today it has become much more serious.  More countries are sponsoring qualifying races with 35-45 countries that will send pilots to Drone Worlds. Sponsorship is really changing, as sponsors for Drone Nationals and Drone Worlds are seeking the demographic, not necessarily drone related products and services.  ESPN and Discovery’s involvement is attracting major sponsors to the event.
  • [18:07] Drone Worlds Status. Drone Worlds will be similar to Drone Nationals but on a world stage.  In fact, Drone Nationals will be the model for Drone Worlds.  The race will be held on Oahu, Hawaii on the Kualoa Ranch, the site of several Hollywood movies and Television shows, like Jurassic Park, Jurassic Worlds, Godzilla and the television series, Lost.  At Drone Worlds, there will be Search & Rescue completion that will highlight the advances in that technology.  Drone Worlds will be held on October 17-22.
  • [22:47] Augmented Reality and Drone Racing. The last time we heard from Scot Refsland, we talked about the possibility of integrating augumented reality uses in the drone races.  2017 may be the first time that we some applications.
  • [24:51] Shout Out To The Community.  Scot acknowledges that the support of the community and even the competitors have made the growth of drone racing a success.  The positive working relationship of the community has ultimately been responsible for the progress that has been made.

Mentioned Links

Map of Drone Nationals Venue on Governor's Island, NYC
Map of Drone Nationals Venue on Governors Island, NYC

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