Multiple sources are lending evidence to the fact that IDRA (International Drone Racing Association) and Rotor Sports have broken their partnership. On April 6, 2016, a mere three months ago, the two companies announced they would collaborate. Nearly a week later, ESPN signed a multi-year international media distribution deal with IDRA, which has the potential to be very profitable for Rotor Sports.
Not much is known at this time about why they split. Some hypothesize that it could have something to do with previous accidents, and complications delegating responsibility for future accidents that may occur at events. All it takes is a serious injury or an out of control drone to pose major legal problems for either of the companies and, if that happens, an explosion of blame shifting could ensue.
Nobody knows how ESPN will continue with their contract, but their separation will have some important implications, especially for drone pilots in New York. Rotor Sports is said to be maintaining control over the New York area, which might be cause for concern for IDRA pilots. Nobody knows if IDRA pilots will continue to be recognized in New York or if they will have to go through a new process. Traditionally, IDRA has been the one to maintain pilot rankings for different drone racing events around the world. Rotor Sports has taken charge of event production and media distribution, but their split could force both companies to shore up their respective weaknesses.
The split of the two companies comes before the highly anticipated US National Drone Racing Championships on Governors Island in New York City, which was to be televised by ESPN on August 5-7. Both IDRA and Rotor Sports are expected to collectively spearhead this event. (Here’s the ad they are running). The Rotor Sports website still advertises the US Championships as well as the 2016 World Drone Racing Championships on Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii, on October 17-22 which will also be televised by ESPN. In contrast, the IDRA website no longer advertises either of the races and the Drone Internationals website doesn’t have IDRA’s logo stamped on the event.
The split doesn’t bode well for IDRA, but all will become clear when both companies release statements and plans for the future. In the meantime, New York drone pilots should listen closely for any news about how this will impact their status and recognition.