With all the awesome Downtown views and cross-town tours that drone videos have provided in the past year, maybe it's not too much of a surprise to learn that Los Angeles is considered a major hub of a nascent new sport: drone racing. Or maybe it is, because: drone racing? The city has earned the nickname "the mecca of drone racing," among many, says the New York Times, because so many active drone pilots are based in LA, like the ones who meet in an underground parking garage in Eagle Rock late at night to practice racing, dodging obstacles, and not crashing (which happens a lot).
Los Angeles also has one of the brightest stars of the young sport: a Spanish-born pilot who recently moved to LA to take a job as a Disney animator, because no one's quitting their job yet to become a professional drone racer. That's not to say that the sizes of the race purses aren't large and growing—over the summer, a race at the California State Fair had a first prize of $25,000. The company that organized that race, a "sports entertainment company" called RotorSports, plans to host a world championship race in Hawaii where the winner will take home $100,000. Some racers have gotten sponsorships from drone makers too.
The mechanics of making drones into a spectator sport haven't quite been figured out yet; to the naked eye, they can be hard for viewers to keep up with, and first-person view goggles available at races offer a view that's "disorienting, if not nauseating, as least initially." But the interest is there. At a recent competition at the SoCal Maker Convention in Pomona, "several hundred" people watched the first California Cup race, put on by the LA-based International Drone Racing Association, which has more than 500 members despite being less than a year old. "This can be just like the X Games, motocross racing and Red Bull air racing," says the CEO of the association.