ESPN and the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) have announced a partnership to broadcast drone racing live on TV, starting with a three-day event in New York City this August. The sport is being positioned as the niche interest it still is — with the NYC championship streaming live on online channel ESPN3 before being edited down to a one-hour TV broadcast — but ESPN is certainly dreaming big about its future. “Drone racing is currently seeing an unprecedented rise in popularity,” said the network in a press release, “and is poised to become the next behemoth racing sport alongside NASCAR and Formula 1.”
Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but the sport is certainly building momentum. Drone racing leagues of all shapes and sizes have been springing up around the world, videos of talented pilots rack up big view counts on YouTube, and just this March, a British teenager won $250,000 after taking first place in the inaugural World Drone Prix in Dubai. Proponents of the sport say it’ll only get more exciting as video streaming improves, and 360-degree footage and VR headsets are added to the mix.