What is 'drone soccer' that is set to enter India

Wednesday’s exhibition match in Delhi will feature Korean and Indian players

drone-soccer-sanjay (From left) Sunil Moon Hee, director, Federation International Drone Soccer, Chirag Sharma, CEO, Drone Destinations, and Alok Sharma, chairman, Drone Destination | Sanjay Ahlawat

It's not sure if this was inspired by Quidditch in Harry Potter series. But there are similarities galore between drone soccer and the fictional fantasy game spawned by writer J.K.Rowling that acquired cult popularity, and transformed into a real-world sporting discipline. This latest iteration of football, more a playstation-meets-playground tech breakthrough, is ‘drone soccer.' And it makes a formal entry into India on Wednesday through an exhibition match in the national capital.

This was announced by Alok Sharma, chairman of Drone Destination, a drone industry training and servicing listed company, which has tied up with the South Korea-based FIDA (Federation of International Drone Soccer Associations) to launch the new discipline in the country by setting up the Drone Soccer Association of India. Wednesday’s exhibition match at Delhi's Grand Hotel will feature Korean and Indian players, and will happen in the presence of FIDA officials, including Suh Moon Hee, director and board member of FIDA, who have flown in from Seoul.

But what exactly is drone soccer? As you can presume, it is a game in which drone operators (or pilots) operate their drone (which is in a football-shaped outer shell lit up in team colours by LEDs) and aim it for a ‘goal’ by trying to make it pass through a doughnut-shaped goalpost placed 3.5 metres above ground. Each team comprises five members, but there is only one ‘striker’ who can score a goal, with the other players playing the role of defenders.

The game consists of three sets lasting three minutes each. Parents, too, are said to like it since it is like a video game but instead of making kids fixated to their phones or consoles, drone soccer makes them go out to the gaming area and play, interacting in a physical scenario.

“The advantage of this game is that it can be played by sporty as well as non-sporty people, the old as well as the young, as long as they train and acquire the drone operating skills,” said Alok Sharma, chairman of Drone Destinations.

After its birth in Korea in 2016, drone soccer has acquired popularity in many countries, particularly amongst youngsters in the US as well as South Korea. FIDA already boasts of 20 countries as members (21 if you count Hong Kong), with 20 more set to join in soon, before the scheduled Drone Soccer World Cup next year. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Korean drone soccer display had enthralled audiences and sparked off interest, considering how the country already has an IPL-style drone soccer league with 300 adult teams and 1,500 youth teams.

Drone Destination says it plans to train a lot of 'drone footballers', in preparation ahead of its eventual plan to launch the Indian Drone Soccer League in the country. "We will make them future ready," said a DD official, adding, "Drone soccer gives the same or better thrill as a video game, but in a physical world."

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