Your average drone moves at a pretty fast clip; with the popular Phantom 3 model quadcopter able to hit speeds of about 36 miles per hour. It feels like it’s moving even faster in-person, especially if you’re controlling it in first-person camera view. Now, take this idea of fast-paced maneuverability and multiply that experience by about 2-3 times and you might be picturing the Drone Racing League, the newest extreme sport.
The Future of Racing
DRL is something that resembles the booming trend of RC cars of the 90’s, only with a much friendlier fan experience, thanks to advances in technology. The problem with RC car racing wasn’t that it was too slow or too expensive, but that it didn’t have much of a presentation for fans to become invested past the initial speed factor.
With drone racing, you have one defining advantage that makes the audience feel the adrenaline of racing a fast vehicle that the driver feels: a first-person view. With the best FPV racing drones reaching speeds of 80 mph and turning corners on a dime, coming inches away from complete destruction, everything feels much more high-stakes than just a cool hobby. That’s what the Drone Racing League wants to bring to mainstream audiences.
Images by The Drone Racing League
F1 Racing gone Airborne
The DRL wants to bring the competitive action of professional racing to drone enthusiasts around the country, with tournament brackets and point systems used just like NASCAR and Formula One. This is what sets DRL apart from most amateur sports, or the unfair comparison with e-Sports, where tournaments are independent from each other. They want to become the industry standard.
The best part DRL is that even though their races are based in the States, they get international attraction, with the best racing drone pilots all over the world wanting in on the high-level action. Many sports have countries, states, and cities that favor it more than others, but that isn’t the case for drone racing, where interest in drones is a worldwide phenomenon.
What makes DRL on the bubble for a huge explosion in participation and sponsorship is that the field of talent is huge and the foundation for a large fan base is all but waiting to be utilized in the same ways that e-Sports exists. The difference is that drone racing is not just a youth-dominated sport, fans of racing in-general are attracted to the high-speed cockpit views and mixture of speed and finesse.
Once DRL gains more traction, it can offer up bigger cash prizes and attract bigger audiences, which in-turn means bigger sponsors. As it is now, the league is in that early-adoption excitement phase that all big innovators experience, where proof of concept is being established and presentation is being polished. For now, you should head to YouTube and see one of these real-life pod races in action, and then imagine how great it would be to watch that in-person:
Some experts point out that with home VR technology entering reality, the first-person drone racing concept starts mimicking, even surpassing, sci-fi movie concepts that essentially replaced traditional forms of racing. We wouldn’t go as far to predict that (everyone loves to feel the sting of air in a car speeding in the open road), but it does make one think about how far this drone racing thing could go.