The online bookmaker Betfair has managed to find its wings before its competitors, becoming the first UK online betting site to offer odds on the relatively new sport of drone racing after keeping an eye on the market for over two years. And they weren't the only ones keeping an eye on the market!
The company, now part of the massive Paddy Power Betfair family following the two companies' merger, hopes to win over the coveted UK punters, who perhaps have heard of drones only through near misses in the newspapers. Regardless of UK punters' knowledge of drones at this point, moving forward few punters will be unaware of the budding market!
Up until recently, drones have been primarily used for aerial photography and filming, becoming widely available due to Chinese manufacturers like DJI and Yuneec. However, a sporting subgenre has risen from the technology, looking to combine the thrill of Formula 1 with the freedom of flight.
Whereas camera drones are built to shoot steady video, racing drones are built for speed and manoeuvrability. Many feature cameras positioned at the front to offer a first-person perspective (FPV) that can be transmitted to a pilot with a screen or pair of VR goggles to better direct the drone. These feeds can also be transmitted and broadcast, working in the same way as the cameras on F1 cars.
There are many different types of drone racing. Aerial Grand Prix have classifications such as 250 Mini, Pro Super Mini and Open Class drones. Courses can be indoors and outdoors, with specific markers the drones need to fly past, or hoops they need to shoot through.
The biggest group of professional drone pilots compete in the Drone Racing League. The New York based start-up has just completed a new round of investment, raising over $20 million from companies such as Sky, Liberty Media, Lux Capital, and many more top media companies.
It has also retained Allianz as its global title sponsor. The new season of drone racing will be broadcast on sports channel ESPN from June 20, showing in more than 75 countries through affiliate channels like Sky Sports, German broadcaster ProSiebenSat 1, and kids' channel Disney XD.
The first drone racing event that Betfair offered coverage of was the final race of the Allianz World Championship circuit. The race partnered with Amazon’s The Grand Tour TV programme for promotion, hoping the drone technology would appeal to fans of Jeremy Clarkson’s new show. The event formed part of London Tech Week, which was running until June 16.
The final race in the 2017 Allianz World Championship Season pitted eight top pilots against each other in a high-flying finale where the winner took all. Betfair’s Senior Marketing Campaign Manager, Stephen Mault, hailed the new drone race betting markets as a “great opportunity” for the online bookmaker, highlighting the “rise in popularity of the sport of drone racing”.
He also revealed plans for Betfair to offer two rounds of betting. The first would be on the individual winner of each of seven primary rounds, while Betfair customers could also gamble on who would be crowned king of the skies by winning the Allianz World Championship trophy.
Drone Racing League founder and CEO, Nicholas Horbaczewski, has pushed drone racing as “a sport made for betting,” because of “the raw thrill of short track racing with the complexity and strategy of motor sports”. Speaking of both Betfair and The Grand Tour, he added:
"We’re incredibly proud to announce new partners and investors aligning with Drone Racing League to solidify drone racing as the sport of the future."
Drone racing betting markets are the latest in a long line of developments allowing punters to bet less traditional sports. First there was the rise in virtual sports, where bookmakers are able to create computer-generated matches or races in a variety of different fields.
These allow gamblers to place a bet on their favourite action, even if it is out of season and there is no game on. Another emerging market is in eSports. Like drone racing, it was born from a hobby of playing computer games.
However, with the advent of multiplayer games, teams of gamers have banded together to compete in eSport tournaments all over the world. In 2016, over $37 million was up for grabs in the prize pools of the top five tournaments.
The highest single event, The International, offered a cash pool of over $20 million alone, the biggest yet in eSports. At the rate that the Drone Racing League is growing, and with plenty of investors trying to get off the ground, drone racing could soon eclipse these figures. Check out Betfair's drone racing markets today!