You guys hear they're making Top Gun 2, with Tom Cruise reprising his role? Here's my suggested plot: Maverick, having retired from the military, is now a commercial airline pilot for Delta. Busted down to commuter flight duty in Wisconsin for having too many delayed departures, he must improve his on-time performance to win back the coveted JFK to LAX route. Along the way he must deal with unruly passengers, overbooked flights and passive-aggressive flight attendants.
Seriously though, the scuttlebutt is that the new movie will involve drones.
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Presumably the military kind, but if they're trying to capture the youth market, perhaps they should change it to commercial drones. Particularly since FPV (first-person view) drone racing is currently exploding in popularity, with organizations like the International Drone Racing Association and the Drone Racing League setting up races with purses in the five figures. For those of you who've never seen this new "sport," here's what it looks like:
If we look past the bombastic presentation, it actually is kind of cool, something like Formula One on a three-dimensional course. And it appears to be growing rapidly: Last summer a drone racing entertainment company called RotorSports held a race in California with a $25,000 top prize, and this year's will feature higher stakes: The winner will get $100,000.
What's fascinating about drone racing is how technologically isolating it is. The pilots wearing those FPV goggles—which run about a grand a pop—are completely in their own worlds and unable to see their competitors standing directly next to them.
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It also may not make for a good live spectacle, as it is tricky to present the race in real-time to a crowd, who may strain to make out a tiny flying machine zipping past at 70 miles per hour. As The New York Times points out,
This is a reason the future of drone racing may be online rather than in live competitions. Many of the racers here record their drones' acrobatics using an additional camera, like a GoPro, mounted on top, creating video that can be downloaded later off the camera. The best moments can then be edited into a high-resolution video with music and posted online.
Technology has been changing the nature of spectacles for quite some time. In the days of Roman gladiators, heading to the Colosseum to watch it was the only way to experience it. Today if you want to watch, say, the Knicks losing at the Garden, it's better to view it from the comfort of your own home, where you can hear the calls and see the controversial replays that they refuse to show at stadium for fear of inciting fans. You get a far better look at the action via camera than you do in person. From the 300 level, it may look like one of the players simply fell down; but on TV you see a close-up of the nasty crossover that tripped him up.
So what's interesting about drone racing is that in this era of immediate gratification, this event is actually better viewed after the fact, after the editors have gotten their hands on the footage. And it seems it will be viewed not by thousands of roaring fans lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in an arena, but by thousands of individual people sitting alone or with a few friends in front of their computers.
You have to wonder: Is this what Maverick was fighting for?
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