Biosphere 2 will be filled Saturday, March 24, with the sound of whirring propellers as 12 remotely piloted drones race at more than 90 mph in and around its steel-and-glass lattice frame.
The event at the research facility north of Tucson, near Oracle, will be the latest in a series of races around the globe produced by the Drone Racing League, the world’s first professional drone racing circuit.
Saturday night’s race will be recorded and aired later this fall on major sports networks around the world, including ESPN, Sky in the United Kingdom and ProSieben in Germany. The number of eventual viewers is expected to be in the tens of millions — the last two seasons have been watched by more than 55 million people total.
Biosphere 2 will also host a daylong event, which is open to the public, showcasing technologies of the future, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and robotics, said John Adams, deputy director of Biosphere 2.
The Biosphere 2 opens at 9 a.m., and most exhibitors will be there by 11 a.m. The racing will start at 6 p.m. and go until about midnight.
“As we scout the globe for the most iconic and visually stunning locations to host our complex, 3-D racing events, we knew we had to bring a 2018 season race to the world’s largest earth science facility,” Nicholas Horbaczewski, DRL’s founder and CEO, said in a prepared statement.
“Integrating the planet’s most breathtaking landscapes, including an ocean, a rainforest and the desert, within an architecturally spectacular enclosed ecosystem, Biosphere 2 looks like nothing we’ve ever done before,” he said. “Plus, as a tech company at our core, we value STEM education and supporting programs that inspire new understandings about drones.”
Representatives from the UA College of Engineering, UA Avirtek & Autonomic Computer Center, Barrow Neurological Institute, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Project WET, a water education organization, will also be present to interact with the public and explain how they use innovative technologies.
“(Biosphere 2) is an ideal setting for evoking curiosity about a future where technologies that combine the physical and digital worlds are expanding in innovative and provocative ways,” said Joaquin Ruiz, director of Biosphere 2 and UA vice president for innovation, in a prepared statement. The UA runs Biosphere 2.
The Drone Racing League will provide a racing simulator that will allow users to fly through digitally rendered versions of past courses like a video game, Adams said.
A large screen on the Biosphere 2 lawn will allow the audience to watch the race throughout the facility.
Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. All-access passes to both the Biosphere and the race are available from opening at 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Alternatively, race-only tickets can be bought online or at the Biosphere starting at 4 p.m.
The race winner will take part in world championship race in Saudi Arabia.