DRL: The Sport Of The Future

By Adam Goulburn, PhD

“No idea is too early or too crazy” is an oft repeated mantra within Lux. Lux has spent a lot of time with many entrepreneurs in the sports tech world ranging from analytics and AI to capture and conditioning, but we’ve always been attuned for something off-the-wall, never done before, and by an entrepreneur re-envisioning how live competition would enthral us in the future.

We met Drone Racing League (DRL) when the company was three guys huddled together in a downtown Manhattan WeWork — the ‘coolest’ cookie-cutter offices around. But as I walked past DRL HQ, it was anything but standard; it was a startup hacker engineer garage. Transformed with soldering machines, robots, strewn wires and spare circuit boards, 3D printers and of course: state of the art racing drones in hard-shelled Pelican cases. I was hooked before Nick, Ryan and Trevor were kind enough to entertain my curiosity.

One of the many tricks we use at Lux to find cutting-edge technologies and the rebels commercializing them is following the free and foraging at the fringe. We go to gatherings where there is an incessant and ceaseless amount of activity with lots of amateurs but little money yet. We learn from these fervent, motivated rebels and hobbyists who are also learning from each other. It’s the purest form of self-organizing community you can find.

Drone racing is just that. Populated by insanely passionate pilots, both local and global, drone rodeos are amateur gatherings that are recreational and entertaining but crying out to be taken to the next level. Enter DRL, which is on the mission to legitimize the sport on a grand scale the world over.

More than simply validating a sport and creating a professional league, DRL is built from the ground up with patented technology and IP. DRL’s custom-made drones are proprietary and engineered for agility, maneuverability and control, with top speeds reaching nearly 100mph and outgunning Porsches:

They also take first person view (FPV) to an extreme. With cameras mounted on the drones that let pilots race in specialty goggles, combined with secretive communication technology that creates a mesh-like network over any space, even inside buildings and tunnels, the 3D world is now the drone’s oyster.

Flight along any X, Y, Z axis, up and down, through abandoned buildings, windows, ceilings, floors, indoors, outdoors, night or day, around corners, behind walls, through tunnels, DRL’s pilots have the entire planet as their racing obstacle course. But it’s not just where you fly drones.

Imagine modifying drones for specific functions such as opting for speed over agility, maneuverability over power, selecting drone ‘powers’ to shoot a net or a distracting cloud of smoke to throw off a competitor, or successfully racing the hardest part of the course to pick up an extra ‘life’ drone. It’s as easy as picking your fighter or weapon of choice in a video game. It is a real life video game.

Will it be a live spectator sport or entirely consumed online? We’re excited to find out. We do know that DRL is catering for all, using technicolor props, drone-stacked LEDs, a ridiculously sophisticated broadcast team and a suite of camera technologies that turn the races into exhilarating, heart pounding spectacles. And ultimately it comes down to the fans and the participants. The amateur pilots of today will be the pioneers, but the video gamers, drone enthusiasts and digital-native, tech-savvy kids will be the superstars of the future. In that sense, DRL is the perfect match of sports, technology and entertainment. And Lux has already seen the future, not only betting on DRL, but also cheering it on raucously as hungry fans!