This company has raised $8 million to put on Formula One-style drone races
Cross Formula One with competitive video gaming, and what do you get?
Probably something a lot like this:
Drones racing down elaborate courses including abandoned malls, NFL stadiums and subway tunnels at speeds greater than 80 miles an hour, controlled from afar by pilots wearing “first-person view” goggles that show a live video feed from the drone’s “cockpit.” All of which plays out in a highly-produced broadcast reminiscent of the live streams and YouTube videos that have made electronic sports what they are today — boasting a huge international fan base that rivals the traditional (real-life) sports leagues in size.
This Formula One / eSports mashup is being brought to life by a company called The Drone Racing League, which officially launched today. Its first drone race is set to broadcast to YouTube in February.
The league has more than $8 million in funding, said DRL founder and CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski, including investment from Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross’s venture-capital firm RSE Ventures. Other investors include Hearst Ventures, CAA Ventures and Muse lead singer Matthew Bellamy, according to a Jan. 21 SEC filing.
“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,” Horbaczewski said.
“When you look at the way sports have evolved over the last few years, we look at eSports [electronic sports, or competitive videogame play] as a parallel of what we’re doing,” Horbaczewski said.
Drone Racing League
DRL won’t be the first to organize the drone-racing scene, though it hopes to gain dominance as the sport’s fan base grows.
In July of last year, 120 pilots participated in the first U.S. national drone-racing competition in Sacramento, Calif. There’s also the Aerial Sports League, which hosts not just drone racing, but drone combat competitions.
Horbaczewski estimates at least 100,000 people world-wide participate in drone racing as a hobby.
DRL will air its first race on YouTube on Feb. 22., with two to three hours of content including pilot interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Another race will take place in March at the abandoned Hawthorne Mall in Los Angeles.