Entering The Drone Zone Augments the Fan Experience


Imagine being able to sit in the cockpit of a plane racing at high speeds through dangerous obstacles. While watching the Drone Racing League (DRL) does not fully simulate the experience of being a Top Gun pilot, it does enable its fans to see what it is like to be a drone pilot by using First Person View (FPV) technology. More specifically, pilots strap on virtual reality (VR) headsets which broadcast a feed from a camera located on the front of the drone. DRL fans get the adrenaline pumping feeling of twisting, turning and flipping a plane at 80 mph speeds all while racing against other pilots. The aggressive style of racing leads to some dramatic crashes similar to NASCAR and Formula One without any of the potential danger.

The FPV immersive environment is one of the key reasons that many fans, media, and sponsors are so excited with the new league. Fans generally want to have as much access to their favorite athletes and teams as possible. Social media has given fans this opportunity by enabling athletes and teams to directly communicate with their fans.

Through FPV however, fans can experience direct access to what a player sees during competition. It is this development that has many sports industry experts following the development of VR so closely. FVP could bring a viewer in the pocket with a quarterback, on the ice with a forward, or in the batter’s box with a major league hitter. The camera could also follow an athlete off to the sidelines and give insight to player-coach interactions or see how players prepare in practice. The potential possibilities FPV could have is virtually limitless.

One of the key questions facing the sports industry is what the impact of virtual reality (VR) will have on the fan experience. More specifically, will VR cannibalize existing revenue streams or augment them. If fans can get FPV experiences from the comfort of their homes or through their mobile devices, then they will be less likely to buy tickets to games or watch events on television.

The Allianz World Championships is a good example that these concerns may be exaggerated, at least in the near-term. Rather than cannibalizing current revenue streams, FPV seems to be augmented them. Even though the DRL is only in its second year of existence, the July 28th race features corporate partners such as Allianz, Bud Light, Sky Sports and will be broadcasted on ESPN. This in large part due to its ability to target young demographics in an immersive experience that maximizes fan engagement with the sport using FPV technology. Without FVP, it is not clear that the DRL would be as successful as it has been to date.