Drone Racing Prides Itself On Being the Ultimate Spectator Sport

Drone Racing Prides Itself On Being the Ultimate Spectator Sport

Mashing up motorsports and videogames, this competition has broad appeal

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 9 february 2016

Humans have found ways to race pretty much everything. Racing boats, planes, bicycles, wheelchairs, sleds, lawnmowers, school busses, motorcycles and, of course, cars are all fueled by competitive spirit and a desire to challenge technology and engineering boundaries. We can add drones to that list as 2016 looks to be the year when drone racing establishes itself as a legitimate competitive sport.

Drone racing is a very new sport and one of the organizations leading the way in terms of technology advancements, competition structure and spectator engagement is New York City-based Drone Racing League ( DRL). DRL will stage six races in 2016 culminating with a winner-take-all World Championship event to crown the league’s first top global drone pilot.

Drone racing videos on Youtube are gaining in popularity, with some racking up more than a million views and counting. We wanted to know what the draw to the new sport was all about, so we spoke with Nicholas Horbaczewski, DRL Founder and CEO, to explain the appeal,

“Drone racing is all about speed and the adrenalin rush that comes with it. The sport captures elements of motor racing, but translates them to 3D space. We also use unique environments as circuits. Races are held places like abandoned industrial factories or sports stadiums. We look for venues that provide a challenge to the pilots and an interesting visual backdrop for spectators.”

To explain briefly how DRL’s formula of racing works, pilots have to use drone hardware supplied by the Drone Racing League. Individuals can’t modify the hardware at all, so no motor swaps or alternative prop designs could be used. Pilots are allowed to tune drones to their specific tastes regarding control response and handling characteristics.

Pilots compete in short heat races, each lasting only about 90 seconds to two minutes long where they have to navigate a course of checkpoints that register time. The pilot through all the checkpoints in the shortest time wins the race. Pilots fly the drones via a controller and goggles which show a first-person view of the drone’s flightpath from front-mounted cameras. The drones are capable of speeds of 80 mph.

Motorsport fans make up the early adopter spectator base of drone racing. But what makes drone racing distinct and potential for broader appeal is how spectating can be done.

“People can do what we call ‘copiloting’ and watch the race through goggles as well. They get to experience the same view as the pilot through the cameras on the front of each drone. The sensation of flying blurs the line between what is virtual and what’s real.”

DRL staged their first competitive event at the Miami Sun Life stadium. They don’t have the capability for live spectating at events yet, but Horbaczewski said it is a component to the show they are looking to integrate in later. For now, races are filmed and released at a later date. The Miami race is set to be released on February 22. There is a teaser video which give a hint at what the races are like to watch.

Drone racing doesn’t yet have the big name sponsors like F1 or NASCAR and their star pilots are household names. The sport is very much in an exhibition stage of its life but it does have elements not foreign to other forms of racing. Horbaczewski acknowledges there’s opportunities ahead for the sport and potential for lots of spinoff technology.

“We are in the infancy of drone technology. Although it’s already a multi-billion dollar industry. This is the beginning of raising a generation of drone pilots around the globe. The skills and abilities of pilots will only get better as time moves on. It’ll be exciting to watch for sure.”

Drone Racing League


Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Syndicated Yesterday

Banned Books Week Urges People To Seek Out Controversial Works

Joining the annual celebration of the right to read, US author Jessica Herthel called for 'more information, more voices' to protect diversity

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

Related Expert

Jordan Fish

Build-Your-Own StoryTeller

Culture Yesterday

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects

Mobile Yesterday

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

Advertising Yesterday

McDonald’s Is Accepting Trash As Currency In Exchange For Burgers

An initiative in Stockholm is trying to keep streets clean while satisfying hunger


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Culture Yesterday

Google Is Using Virtual Paper Airplanes To Bring People Closer Together

The tech giant released an app that lets people throw their good wishes out into the world on the International Day of Peace

Advertising Yesterday

Get Paid For Traveling In San Francisco After Rush Hour

BART Perks rewards commuters who take early or late trains by giving them extra points to trade for money

Culture Yesterday

Artist Designs Covers For Books That Don’t Exist

Published by the fictional 'Specious Books,' the subversive works facilitate a conversation regarding the artistic integrity of graphic designers

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Food Yesterday

Bringing Food Innovation To America’s Crowded Milk Market

a2 Milk's Blake Waltrip, Chief Executive of the USA region, discusses how the distributor plans on bringing the popular drink for the dairy-sensitive to the States


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Financial Services Yesterday

Device Makes Digital Currency Feel Tangible

The concept gadget wants you to experience the highs and lows of spending money

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

NBC Is Planning To Stream The Presidential Debates In Virtual Reality

Partnering with AltspaceVR, the broadcaster offers another way for Americans to engage with the election season

No search results found.