You can officially tell your mom she
“We say drone racing is like a real-life
Horbaczewski believes drone racing to be “the sport of the future,” and he might be right. “We take the magic of
Drones aren't just for surveillance and dropping bombs. They're actually extremely popular machines for professionals and hobbyists alike. You probably have a friend who flies one,
That's how it went for Rafael
“You're working with your mind, so it's sometimes even harder,”
“We need to introduce the world to drone racing,” he says. “We need to explain to them what it is, create events that let people follow the races, get into it, let people get excited about the pilots, and become fans.”
The DRL upped the ante big time on the tech side. These pilots usually build their own drones. They have to know how to build them; because the machines crash so often, it would be impossible to race regularly if the pilots couldn't fix their drones themselves. That doesn't ensure an even playing field, though, so the DRL has provided top-level drones with regulated features, making sure each racer is getting by on nothing but his or her abilities.
The new league also changed the game as far as courses are concerned. Racers are accustomed to feeding a live standard-def broadcast image from a drone's camera via a headset fixed with antennae, but they had to stay in open-air courses or else lose the signal. For the safety of everyone involved — and to avoid strict government regulations — the DRL creates courses in large places (like an empty Sun Life Stadium). Inside, they run drones through high-stakes obstacle courses, weaving them in and out of halls and stairways, rooms and stadium seating to reach the goal. The antennae are placed throughout the course instead of on headsets, so the signal is never lost even as drones travel between thick concrete walls.
After their race in Miami, Horbaczewski says, the next stop is an abandoned mall in Los Angeles. “You can really do it anywhere. We want to have a huge variety of venues. It's fun, it's exciting, it's great to watch, and with more and more people flying drones, it's really cool to see what these elite pilots can do.”
So far, the pilots are keeping their day jobs. Horbaczewski hopes the sport will grow in this first season so it generates a loyal fan base and lucrative sponsorship deals.
Still, you can't beat trips around the globe to compete against the toughest in the world. For racers like
The winner of the first race in Miami can't yet be announced — that would be cheating. You have to watch the action-packed edited video of the race
It's a lot of fun to watch these pilots do their thing — and it's not an easy task to pilot yourself. I had a chance to test a drone. I felt drunk just trying to get all four corners off the ground. There was a kid there who couldn't have been much older than 9, and his dad was one of the pilots. The kid was playing a simulator and whooping everyone else's ass.
It goes to show that you don't have to be a genius engineer to be a great drone pilot. You just have to know your way around a
“The good thing about [the DRL is] they're promoting and launching the sport,”
Drone Racing League
Airs February 22 (channel to be determined). Visit thedroneracingleague.com.