Two drones go in, one comes out. This is the mantra for a new underground sport known as drone dueling. In it, quadcopters of all shapes and sizes take to the skies to duke it out until only one remains.
For a pilot, the mission is simple: kill or be killed.
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Battles often take place outdoors, although exhibitions like Maker Faire have brought them inside (and surrounded the battleground with safety netting) in an attempt to draw larger crowds. After matching up two teams, the aim is for one drone to knock the other out of the air three times. Once this happens, the losing team packs up and leaves, and the winning team, presumably, exchanges high fives.
Interestingly, though, pilots aren’t just battling other pilots. The sport relies on the entire team carrying their weight. Once a drone is downed, the crew has 90 seconds to perform repairs or make adjustments before putting it back in the air. If a drone can’t continue, the battle is over and the opposition wins.
It’s one of the few sports that puts engineering front-and-center, and fans eat it up. “What we found is that drone violence is actually a way to trick kids into their interest in the science and tech,” said Marque Cornblatt, CEO of the Aerial Sports League.
It’s the coolest sport you’ve never heard of, and if it follows the trajectory of the Drone Racing League (DRL), it could be huge. These frenetic drone races capture hundreds of thousands of viewers and millions in venture funding. With partners like Amazon and BMW, and broadcast deals with ESPN and Sky Sports, the future is bright for drone sports. And there’s really no reason drone duels can’t be next.
Well, if California doesn’t kill it, that is.
According to California Senate Bill 347, “A person shall not weaponize a remote piloted aircraft or operate a weaponized remote piloted aircraft.” I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds a lot like what’s happening here.
But, there’s room for negotiation. The bill doesn’t currently clarify what constitutes a weaponized drone and there could always be exemptions added for sport.