Drone competitions are now being held all over the world and are receiving more and more attention. Meanwhile, Japan’s first professional drone team “RAIDEN RACING” has been the world’s No.1 in the world’s largest league “Drone Champions League” for two consecutive years. Here is an interview with Mr. Yu Kodera, a representative of DRONE SPORTS Co., Ltd, who is in charge of the team, about the appeal of drone racing and the team’s activities.
–First of all, what kind of competition is drone racing?
The simple answer is “a race for speed with drones”. It’s an immersive experience where you can enjoy being in the cockpit as a pilot by loading a camera onto the drone.
–How many people participate in the race?
There are no exact statistics, but it is said that there are 1,000 to 2,000 people in Japan and 50,000 to 80,000 people overseas. The legal barrier to entry is lower overseas compared to Japan, so it feels like the number of players is steadily increasing.
— Mr. Kodera, please tell us how you got involved in drone racing.
I entered the drone industry in 2014, when I was 23 years old. The trigger was an online salon called “Horie Takafumi Innovation Academy”.
At the time, I belonged to a group that was thinking about how to turn games into business, and one day Mr. Horie asked the members, “Aren’t drone races fun?” From there, the story evolved and we decided to have a drone race.
I was not the first representative, but under various circumstances, I decided to take over as the representative. in 2015, I was appointed as the representative director of the Japan Drone Racing Association (JDRA).
— You are a representative at a young age. what initiatives does the JDRA take to promote drone racing?
We hold one or two major championships a year. I think the visibility of drone racing has increased a lot, like being on TV.
Of the people who are currently active in the drone industry, we have had a lot of people tell us that the events we held then were the catalyst for them to get started, and I believe the drone industry has some influence now. I don’t feel the same way.
— How do you see the sense of drone race in Japan and overseas?
I think Awareness and attention is increasing year by year. In particular, the number of young children has increased dramatically. The top pilots in drone racing are teenagers.
When I got into the drone racing industry, I was the only one in my 20s. There were a few more teens, and most of the rest were in their 40s, working on helicopters and airplanes. Now there are more teens.
–What kind of things appeal to young people?
After all, the immersion of “competing for speed and enjoying the feeling of soaring through the sky” fascinates many children. There are also cases of parents recommending drones to their children because they think they will grow as an industry in the future. However, drones are also expensive, so there are some high barriers to participation. If the barrier here were lowered, more kids could get involved. By the way, one of the members of RAIDEN is a Japanese junior high school student who will be entering high school this spring. He was recognized for his activities and can attend high school as a scholarship student without tuition, so he is scraping together the money.