Drone Racing League is Turning Hobbyists into Professional Athletes

Insights from the FirstMark Hardwired series, a monthly event in New York covering the intersection of hardware and software, including Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics and virtual reality. With more than 4,000 members, Hardwired surfaces the stories behind some of the most interesting companies in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your props! It’s time for some drone racing.

Drone Racing League (DRL) has officially launched its global race series, turning hobbyists into world-class athletes.

Prior to the launch, attendees at FirstMark’s Hardwired NYC, were treated to a sneak preview of DRL’s high-flying ambitions. DRL’s Director of Product, Ryan Gury, explained that the company considers itself a combo of sports and media, combining world-class pilots, iconic locations, and proprietary technology to create racing content with mass appeal.



It’s not often that you watch the birth of an entirely new competitive sport. The last time we saw this was with the rise of “League of Legends” (a FirstMark company), which has basically created the entire eSports category. DRL has similar ambitions to create a large, global audience viewing competitions in person and online.

Gury shared some interesting details on what has been involved in DRL’s launch, including the need to assemble a cast of incredible pilots and maintain a fleet of sophisticated drones.

Check out some of the inside information behind this exciting new sport below:

• A camera onboard the drone enables pilots to see the flight path through video headsets.

• “You actually feel like you’re on the craft. It feels like you’re flying,” Gury said.

• Drones last up to 4 minutes in the air. The fastest lap in competition was 1 minute 20 seconds.

• Top speed is about 110 mph.

• Drones fly in full 3-D. They can move in any direction - up, down, left and right.

• There are currently about 60 pilots considered to be at a professional level.

• The race drones weigh about 200 grams.

• Races have been held in locations such as an abandoned power plant and Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

• Pilots are provided stock racing drones to maintain consistency in performance, visibility and radios.

• An event usually lasts four days including practice rounds.

• Visibility is an issue, so race drones are covered with 90 LED lights.

• If a race drone hits a concrete wall, the pit crew can have the pilot up and running with a new drone in about 95 seconds.

• There are hundreds of settings for each drone and all are calibrated for each pilot’s preference.

DRL plans to host six races around the world in 2016. The next race is scheduled for February 22 in Miami. 

To hear more about DRL’s plans and to see the drones in action, check out the above video from FirstMark’s Hardwired NYC.