Sky’s the limit as Drone Racing League hits screens

16 Sep 2016

One of the 21st century’s favourite inventions, drones are set to face off in the 2016 Drone Racing League after Sky, ESPN and ProSieben bought rights to air the competition.

Wedding photography, parcel delivery, military activities and now racing. The various ways drones are impacting on our lives continues to grow.

The Drone Racing League (DRL) is a bit of a cross between Robot Wars – itself enjoying a revamp – and Wipeout, one of the most popular games on the original Sony PlayStation.

Future Human

Armed with a head-set and manual controls (the former provides a first-person-shooter view), competitors race their drones throughout courses that travel through several floors and try to fit through gates of various sizes.

Drone Racing League

Only a few years old, DRL competitors race with custom-designed drones. Its early popularity is such that Sky (UK and Ireland), ESPN (North America) and ProSieben (Europe) are part of a major €12m investment in the project.

“It’s like a cross between Robot Wars and Red Bull Air Racing,” said a Sky spokesperson, obviously never a fan of Wipeout. “It’s not that big in the UK yet but it is catching on. This is a good opportunity for us to get involved at an early stage.”

Based in the US, it’s hoped that a growth in popularity on the back of extended access to new markets will see DRL come to venues throughout Europe in 2017.

An exciting trailer for the coming season shows competitors racing through tracks built in empty stadia or warehouses.

There are five races, with the winners of each reaching an overall final where the ultimate champion is announced. In October, Sky will start showing 10 60-minute episodes covering the season.

“The sport began four years ago and now hundreds of thousands of people do it as a hobby around the globe,” said DRL’s chief executive and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski to The Guardian.

“I wanted to elevate that amazing hobby into a professional sport for a television audience. These deals are a turning point for the sport. We will be in tens of millions of homes around the world.”

Main drone image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic