Professional drone racing could become an Olympic sport: DRL CEO

Professional drone racing, where fully manual racing drones are expertly piloted around complex three-dimensional racecourses, could one day become an Olympic sport, according to the CEO of the world’s leading professional drone racing league.

“There’s been a lot of conversations about [drone racing becoming an Olympic sport], and they’ve looked pretty seriously at it for the games coming up in Korea,” said Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League (DRL), told Factor.

“I don’t think you will see it in the immediate term, but I definitely think there’s discussions around it, there’s excitement about it, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see drone racing appear in the Olympics in the future.”

The largest professional drone league in the world, the Drone Racing League completed its second season this week with a final held at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK. The season will begin airing in over 75 countries next week, including the UK on Sky Sports Mix on the 21st June and the US on ESPN on the 20th June.

Using custom racing drones that require fully manual control, the Drone Racing League has turned the formerly underground sport of drone racing into a rigorous and highly professional affair, suitable for events such as the Olympics.

“We had to develop our own racing drone from the ground up that was sort of the ultimate high-performance machine for drones,” explained Horbaczewski.

“Racing drones are very different from the kind of camera drones you’d go out and buy on the high street; these are very specialised craft.

“I would say camera drones that people buy are sort of like lorries: they’re a functional craft with a very specific purpose. These racing drones are like Formula One cars: they’re built for speed, performance and sport.”

An excited crowd watch the Drone Racing League 2017 season final, which was held this week at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK, and will air next month following a season start next week. Images courtesy of the Drone Racing League

The DRL’s professional drone racers are also a rare breed, coming from a mixture of the remote control community, motorcycle and car racing and the professional videogame community. And while the basics of consumer drone piloting can be picked up fairly easily, racing drones are considerably tougher.

“It is extremely hard to race drones,” said Horbaczewski. “These are fully manual drones, so there’s no stabilisation, there’s no computer-assistance in flying.  They’re truly controlling power to the four different motors and controlling all the dimensions of flight that way.

“Learning to fly a racing drone is challenging; to reach the professional levels you really have to be very exceptional at flying drones.”

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