Drones are innovative tools that have been pushing the envelope of technology to further heights. We would typically think these drones are just used for aerial photography or surveillance but never in competitive sports. Interestingly, drones are now also actively involved in a sport that is gaining in popularity. It is called drone soccer, and it is even expected to be the next billion-dollar sport.
History of Drone Soccer
Drones were first used in drone racing which required exceptional flight skills and flashy customized drones. This proved to be intimidating to beginners who just wanted to fly their drones for fun and paved the way for drone soccer. Drone soccer is also a strategy game and requires flight skills. However, it has simple rules, short matches and uses standard drone models which appeals to the masses. It is easy to learn and play. You only need a small area, net, and goal markers and you are all set.
Drone soccer is also popularly known as quadcopter soccer because remote-controlled quadcopters are used in this game. These are not hobby drones but first-person view (FPV) racing drones. Take some time to observe the game, and you might even think that this is the modern-day version of Harry Potter’s “Quidditch” or a Star Wars space invasion. These drones fly at a fast speed and zip in and out of the court, making it an exciting sport to watch.
The game was first introduced to the public in 2016 by the CAMTIC Institute of Technology in Jeonju, South Korea. In 2018, the first drone soccer was played in Goyang city in the same country at the “Robo Universe Drone Soccer” wherein 22 teams competed against each other. A year after, Patrick Coumans of the Drone Racing Federation (DRF) introduced drone soccer to Europe at the Amsterdam Drone Week.
This sport is now governed by the World Air Sports Federation. With its growing popularity, drone soccer leagues have now steadily been established in many countries around the world.
There are high hopes that this will become an e-sport in the future and shown on ESPN just like drone racing. What do you think?
The basics of drone soccer
To play this game, you need any type of quadcopter drones tethered to controllers and the same number of drone soccer ball. Quadcopter drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with four arms or booms. The multiple rotors generate lift to enable the aircraft to fly. It is a vertical take-off and landing (“VTOL”) drone which makes it easy to be launched in restricted spaces. Because it is gyro-stabilized, it is able to fly smoothly even in windy conditions. The drone should be tethered to its controller. This means, the controller should have a screen which allows the player to see the drones point of view.
There is no need to connect to a smartphone or tablet. As for the drone soccer ball, this is any type of ball that fits through the drone’s propeller.
The rules of drone soccer are similar to those of traditional soccer. However, there are a few important differences. The glaring and obvious one is the use of drones. Other than this, the game is played by two competing teams in a 20-meter by 10-meter netted flying zone cockpit. Vertical hoops suspended by ropes that serve as goals are located at each end.
The goalpost has an inner diameter of 60cm and a width of 20cm. These automatically keeps score when the Striker successfully passes through it.
Beginner teams are usually composed of a minimum of three members while the professional and more advanced team has a maximum of five member. Each player has a remote-controlled flying quadcopter that is protected by a 360-degree anti-collision cage. This protects the drone from damage during crashes. This exoskeleton is fitted with LED lights representing their teams color.
One team member is the designated Striker whose task is to fly through the goal at the opposite end of the cage and strike a point. Only one drone can fly through this ring. The rest of the team will have to support the Striker in an attack, defend against the opponents Striker and protect the team’s goal.
Teams battle it off in the air by flying a ball over and into the opposing team’s net. Scoring is challenging because if a drone hits the edges of the goal, it swings out of the way. If a ball drops or goes out of bounds this is not counted. Chances of collision is high as each team defend their goal and block their designated “Striker” to score. Damages sometimes happen so repairs need to be done quickly at the sides to keep the drones flying and competing much like a motorsport race. They are relatively easy to repair and even replacements of parts can be done in under a minute!
Games are played Teams clash in three sets, three-minute periods. The team with the highest score at the end of the game wins. Typically, each side scores two to five goals per set. If the striker’s scores, all players on the scoring team cross their team half line. If there is a tie at the end of the regulation time, the game goes into overtime, and the first team to score wins.
Teamwork and various sets of skills and talent is needed to win in drone soccer. Piloting skills are needed to navigate the drone in court like a jet fighter. The pilots need to concentrate and think strategically to be able to fly the drone ball across the net. Technical skills are also needed to do fast repair when your drone takes a hit as well as how to code the drones. You also have to think strategically, such as which player should take the stance of a striker and which should play defense.
If you are not yet into this sport, find a local drone soccer league and join as a player. If there is none in your area, why not start one? You could also be a referee or umpire during drone soccer games. You can also check the internet and download the rule book in different languages of drone soccer.
The way drone technology has developed and evolved beyond its traditional purposes in business other industries is encouraging.
Drone soccer shows that drones have additional, more entertaining purposes aside from their potential for financial gain.