Over the past year or so FPV drone racing has really taken off. It's all set to become a mainstream sport after a TV deal with ESPN, and more and more people are becoming aware of it. But quietly in the background, another drone sport is starting to make some waves: Drone combat.
Drone combat is an invention of the Aerial Sports League (ASL), a community of pilots and drone enthusiasts who hold FPV racing and combat events around the US. Drone combat might sounds like a great way to smash up a drone you've spent loads of time and money on, but it's quickly becoming a popular event at ASL's Drone Sports Worlds, often found at Maker Faires and soon to set up permanently in San Francisco.
So what are the rules? Well, in standard drone combat there are two drones fighting head to head in an arena. The aim is a simple one: knock your opponent’s drone out of the sky and don't get taken down. The action begins with each drone sat on the ground in a starting position. At the sound of the buzzer, all hell breaks loose.
Each player begins with 3 points. One point is lost every time a player’s drone touches the floor, and the first player to lose all three points is declared the loser. It's last drone standing. Or flying.
While ASL does have regulations surrounding the maximum size and weight of each drone, there's plenty of room for creativity when it comes to weapons. Although limited for safety reasons, this year's drones have included one that fires a net to down enemies, while others have resorted to mid-air collisions to beat opponents.
As you can see from the videos in this post, drone combat looks like a lot of fun But it's also proved a great way to get newcomers interested in drone technology. In particular there's been plenty of interest from the younger generation, as proved by the 15-Year-Old taking the regular competitions by storm...
A Sport Under Threat
Despite being a relatively new drone sport, there are already threats to the existence of drone combat. If the California legislature has anything to do with it, weaponizing drones will soon be a crime, and ASL's best pilots could be facing thousands of dollars in fines if they compete.
Clearly, though the bills passing through the state legislature are being ratified with public safety in mind, ASL founder Marque Cornblatt explains in a blog on the company site that these laws "do not take into consideration the popularity and educational value of drone combat games.” As a result, “With the help of the EFF and others, ASL hopes to amend these bills to allow drone sports to continue legally.”
Cornblatt is keen to point out the strict safety measures in place at every drone combat event hosted by ASL, and wants the bills amended to help the growing drone combat sport continue to thrive.
“The ASL combat arena features a net-enclosed safety cage, strict safety procedures and mandatory compliance with all local, state and FAA imposed restrictions. The ASL has hosted hundreds of pilots and exhibited combat competitions and training for over 250,000 live spectators in dozens of events. The drone combat community has a spotless safety record and proven to be a prime example of safe, friendly and educational use of drones for good.”