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Drone Racing Puts Cutting-Edge Technology In The Driver's Seat

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If you haven't ever heard of drone racing, we don't blame you. It just started as an amateur sport in 2012, and didn't get its first big network television break until 2016. But this high-tech sport is going places fast—upwards of 80 miles an hour, in fact.

Related: Robocar Is A Self-Driving Electric Race Car That Can Hit Speeds Of 199 MPH

Drone Race
Drone Race

All The Bells And Whistles

As of 2017, the sport's governing body is the Drone Racing League, and its pièce de résistance is the Racer3. This pint-sized piece of machinery boasts the ability to go from 0 to 80 mph (0 to 130 kph) in less than a second. Compare that to a Formula 1 racecar, the best of which go from 0 to 60 mph in 1.6 seconds. It's also a gearhead's dream: it's got a high-voltage powertrain, cutting-edge flight hardware, and a crash-ready body thanks to a diffused polycarbonate shell that surrounds a 5K carbon-fiber midplate. On top of it all, more than 200 LEDs give it an unearthly glow—because what self-respecting technology doesn't try to make people think of a UFO?

Related: Look Up! Flying Drone Taxis Are Coming Sooner Than You Think

The Drone Racing League's Racer3
The Drone Racing League's Racer3

Head To Head

Drone racing might be new, but it's serious. The amateur version of the sport began in 2012 in Australia, and the first season of the Drone Racing League hit the big time on ESPN in 2016. That season saw a whopping 28.2 million viewers, and the league awarded the winner with a $100,000 contract for the 2017 season. That makes the sport much more than a hobby for those who have the stuff. "It's allowed [pilots] to quit their jobs and do what they do full time," Drone Racing League CEO Nick Horbaczewski told CNBC. That flow of funds also ensures that in the future, racing drones will just get faster. Time to train your racing thumbs.

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