There's a futuristic new sport in town.
The very first Drone Racing League launched Tuesday and it will bring together the world's best drone pilots for some intense races (and maybe some down-to-the-wire crashes if we're lucky).
Drone racing league
The drones will race at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour in everything from abandoned shopping malls to subway tunnels. And it looks awesome.
We spoke with Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League, to learn more about what we can expect. Here's a look at the DRL:
Drone pilots from around the world will gather for six separate competitions throughout the year.
The very first competition featured 12 pilots and took place in December in the Sun Life Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins play, and will be available for viewing February 22.
But there is room for growth — the DRL hopes to get more pilots to attend events over time.
Pilots are invited to play with the hope of winning the grand prize, which has not been announced yet.
The DRL has the added difficulty of finding the best pilots for these competitions: "One of the challenges for starting a brand new sport is there isn't a fair proving ground for pilot skill," Horbaczewski explained.
For now, the DRL has reached out to the "relatively small amount" of people known to be at the elite level, Horbaczewski said. The plan is to continue to invite more pilots to each event.
The pilots will use custom-developed racing drones that can travel at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour.
Each pilot will be given a drone completely made from scratch by the DRL so it is a true test of pilot's skill, Horbaczewski explained.
Consumer drones come with computer assisted features. For example, if you push the joy stick all the way forward on a consumer drone, it will know to only fly as fast as possible without it somersaulting.
"We've totally stripped them of those capabilities," Horbaczewski said. "Our drones are streamlined carbon fiber drones designed around speed and performance."
For now, there is only one pilot assigned to a drone.
"But over time, I could see it evolving to a model more like Formula One where people have a pit crew and organization behind them," Horbaczewski said.
Drones will be equipped with a video camera while racing. The pilots will wear goggles so they can see the live feed while racing.
"One of the great things about drone racing is it sits between the virtual and the real — it's almost like a video game," Horbaczewski said. "The pilots talk a lot about feeling like the drone or sitting in the cockpit of the drone, but it's real life and the drones are flying around."
The first race will take place February 22 in Miami to launch the season.
YouTube/Drone Racing League
And the second race will be at the abandoned Hawthorne Mall in Los Angeles some time in mid-March.
"We are beginning by filming events and releasing the content a little later," Horbaczewski said. "This will evolve to live broadcast and eventually live audiences."
Whether the live streaming will occur on TV or via online streaming has yet to be determined.
The drones will be equipped with over 100 LEDs so viewers can differentiate each pilot's drone when watching a race.
Each DRL event has three stages: Qualifying, Semifinals, and Finals. There are multiple heats per event so pilots get a few shots at making it all the way to the finals.
A pilot will receive points based on what place their drone comes in during different heats. Those with the most points get passed along to the next round. And these points are eventually added up to determine who will go to the World Championship.
This multiple heats particularly comes in handy if a drone crashes in one of the races.
"We expect crashing, it's spectacular and exciting," Horbaczewski said. "If you're not crashing you're not flying hard enough."
Horbaczewski said drone racing is an "incredibly diverse sport," drawing men and women from countries including Mexico, Brazil, and the U.S. Pilots can be as young as 12 years old.
"This has the potential to really grow into something special," Horbaczewski said.