An interesting new sport may be ready to hit the mainstream – drone racing. Today, Ignitia takes a closer look at the New York City-based Drone Racing League and explores some of the reasons why this company may soon be ready to take-off.
The Early Investors
Founded in 2015 by Tough Mudder Chief Revenue Officer Nicholas Horbaczewski, and two visionaries Dan Kanes and Justice Laub, the Drone Racing League’s (DRL) goal from the start has been to take drone racing mainstream. As of today, DRL has been the only drone racing league to attract major outside investors. These investors have included Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, powerhouse talent agency CAA, and even WWE ventures, just to name a few. To date, the league has raised a reported $32 million dollars from three rounds of funding. The latest round was a reported $20 million Series B led by British media company, Sky. The deal also included funding from CRCM Ventures who were brought in to oversee the league’s expansion to the Chinese market.
How it Works
The Drone Racing League is a professional drone racing league where FPV (First Person View) pilots fly custom-built drones at high speeds through open-air courses. The courses consist of a series of checkpoints the pilots must fly through in order to complete a set number of laps in a given time. The drones are custom-built and can reach speeds in excess of 90mph. Pilots wear specially designed goggles that display real-time video feeds directly from cameras mounted on the drones. So far, races have been held in large venues, such as the Miami Dolphins stadium, and a motorcycle factory and have been held in Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, Munich, London, New York, New Orleans, and Boston.
The Early Response
So far, the league has had two seasons. During the first season in 2016, over 75 million people tuned-in online to watch the races. The season consisted of 5 races, and the winning pilot Jordan ‘Jet’ Temkin, received a $100,000 DRL contract. Season 2 saw DRL gain over 100 million views between television and online viewing, and also saw DRL land a major multi-year sponsorship with German financial services company, Allianz. The partnership founded the DRL Allianz World Championship, which in 2018 is scheduled to be held in Dubai. According to DRL founder and CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski, the decision to hold the event in Dubai was simple. “With a rapidly growing fanbase in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East, we felt it was crucial to expand our presence locally and debut our iconic 2018 race there.”
Only time will tell if the sport will catch on with the public at large, but all early indications seem to point to a very high level of interest. Just how large the audience will grow to remains to be seen, but with the partnerships and funding the Drone Racing League has already managed to put in place, it appears the league is well positioned to be around for the foreseeable future.