The Drone Racing League (DRL) is launching its 2016 season, in which the league will enlist drone pilots from around the globe to compete on custom-built racing courses for an eventual world-championship title.
Founded by Nicholas Horbaczewski in 2015, DRL is a privately held company headquartered in New York City. The company says it has built and invested heavily in drones that can travel at speeds in excess of 80 mph while navigating courses built on property such as abandoned malls, football stadiums and subway tunnels.
The first-person-view (FPV) pilots control the drones via remote control while wearing goggles showing the video feed from the aircraft’s cockpit. According to DRL, this method offers a blend of physical and virtual worlds – a real-life video game.
To launch the season, DRL will air its first race, “Level 1: Miami Lights,” on Feb. 22. The second race will take place in Los Angeles in mid-March at the abandoned Hawthorne Mall. For the remaining events, cities under consideration include Detroit; Auckland, New Zealand; and Mexico City. Early events will be invitation-only, says DRL.
There are three stages to a DRL race event: qualifying, semifinals and finals. Each round contains multiple heats so that pilots get a few attempts at racing the same line. Pilots who finish the season with the most points are invited to the world championship.
“Today is an incredibly exciting day for the millions of racing, [virtual reality], drone and video game fans around the world,” explains Horbaczewski. “This is the start of a new sport, designed to bring audiences into the race with custom content and a first-person view of the action.”