Drone racing is worth US$100,000 in upcoming championship
Competition will see 16 racers crossing the globe to compete
By Kelly Song
The Drone Racing League is keeping an eye out for “the greatest drone racer on earth,” and they could be worth a lot of money, according to Drone Racing League CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski.
The DRL Allianz World Championship begins Tuesday on ESPN, with the prize money for the winner set at US$100,000. Sixteen racers will travel around the world, flying their drones in an array of venues from NFL stadiums to abandoned malls.
The league also announced in a statement it will collaborate with the Amazon Prime Video series “The Grand Tour” for its 2017 championship. This mirrors the expanding industry of drone technology — according to a new study by PwC, the emerging market for business services using drones is valued at over US$127 billion, affecting industries from agriculture to filmmaking.
“We are a small part of a multibillion-dollar growing drone industry,” said Horbaczewski in an interview Monday on “Power Lunch.” “What we find is, everybody these days either has a drone, they want a drone, they’re learning how to fly them, and people are finding commercial and consumer applications for them. And we’re just a piece of that. We’re a great outlet, a good reason to go out and fly drones.”
The drones are designed and built by the league, which is a sports and media company, and are crafted differently for every race. Each model is worth from US$500 to US$1000, and can travel from 80 to 90 miles an hour. In order to prevent racers from cheating, standardised equipment is used and the company “[doesn’t] even let the participants touch the drones during the competition,” according to Horbaczewski.
Pilots are scouted and recruited from amateur drone racing competitions. They can also try out through a video game, where their skills are evaluated virtually. Most participants are in their mid- to late twenties, which is the peak age for the sport, according to Horbaczewski.
“It’s a combination of hand-eye coordination, very good depth perception and also the ability to stay calm under pressure,” said Horbaczewski, when asked to describe the criteria for chosen pilots. “We actually find a lot of people come into this sport through things like motorcycle racing and car racing, because they’ve got the nerves for it.”
— CNBC’s Gino Siniscalchi contributed to this report.