Will the Drone Racing League Take Off? 

The DRL announces its inaugural season.


The Drone Racing League is set to kick off its inaugural season at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium in late February, and people are really, really excited:

The racing drones, which can travel up to 80 mph, are fitted with standard-definition cameras and flown remotely by pilots.

And you know there’s a super-dramatic hype video:

The drone pilots are able to direct their quadcopter by wearing goggles that project a video of what the traveling drone is seeing during high-speed laps around the track. (The use of video goggles is an altogether new animal in the realm of sports, making the league not only intriguing but, at this point, one of a kind.) In addition to all the high-tech accessories, the tracks will be made up of numerous LED-lit obstacles for the drones and pilots to dodge during a race:

The first ever DRL event will take place on February 22, 2016 at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, will be followed by a second competition at the abandoned Hawthorne Shopping Mall in Hollywood, eventually leading to the World Championship (location TBA). If you’re already wondering how you can become a pilot, the DRL will be holding an open call later this year, but if you’re just hoping to get tickets to a game, don’t count on it — the first few races won’t be accommodating any spectators.

Although live streaming is on the horizon, the predicted feed lag could affect clarity for pilots, leading to things like motion sickness, compromised video quality, and drone crashes. Until live streaming is readily available to the public, the company promises to release episodic footage following the races and hopefully, more slow-mo footage like this drone-on-bush attack and florescent tube carnage:

In order to ensure that the game stays as fair as possible, unlike NASCAR and most other racing leagues, the DRL will be providing pilots with their own mechanically identical drones, as to avoid any technical advantages, and are still in the process of establishing a competitive formula that works for them.

Having already raised upward of $8 million, the sport has attracted strange investors like the Hearst Corporation, CAA ventures, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, and Matt Bellamy, lead singer of the alternative rock band, Muse.

What’s important to recognize when approaching the game is that there’s simply nothing out there like it, and to expect a familiar format would be contradictory to its uniqueness, the very characteristic that makes drone racing so appealing to begin with.

For now, the sport will be introduced to the public from a digital-only angle, and though it will not have spectators in the immediate future, it’s yet to be seen whether or not there will be a demand for it. Regardless, there’s a palpable sense of hype about drone racing, and the thrill of the unknown is nothing short of exhilarating. We can assume that it may lead to something commercially massive or it may crash and burn, missing its figurative window into the mainstream, but for now, just try to enjoy the ride.

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