Drone Racing Leagues: Everything You Need To Know

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Before we take off and start talking about drone racing leagues, let’s step back in time to where it all began. When it comes to drones, evidence suggests this concept started in Venice in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1935 that the British Military invented the first actual drone, the DH.82B Queen Bee, the first radio-controlled aircraft.

Eighty-five years later, drones have evolved and are now available for commercial and recreational use. These days, recreational drones are growing in popularity as hobbyists use them to capture stunning landscapes, discover the uncharted, inaccessible territory, and even race.

It’s no wonder droning enthusiasts are turning their hobby into a sport and establishing racing leagues. Let’s explore why drone racing has become so popular and discover more about these competitive drone racing leagues.

Drone Racing Explained

The first time a drone race took place was in 2015 in Australia in Melbourne’s underground racing scene. Since then, the drone racing scene has exploded, and in just the last five years, its popularity stretches across every corner of the globe.

Before running through some popular drone racing leagues, let’s walk through the key things you need to know about drone racing.

The Competition Race Type

Drone races allow pilots to compete against each other on a dedicated racing track. Usually, two or more pilots compete per heat. The aim is to fly around the track in the fastest time without crashing into another drone or gate. Like a tennis grand slam, heats roll up to a quarter, semi, and grand final.

The table below describes some of the different types of races available and the pilot’s role and objective.

Race TypeDescriptionPilot’s Role & Objective
Rotorcross– A race between two or more drones.
– The objective is to complete the race the fastest and to pass through all gates.
– Suitable for intermediate and advanced pilots.
– Pilots control the drone from a set distance and wear goggles (FPV) to see the video streaming from their drone.
– A supporter (a.k.a. co-pilot) is there to guide the pilot on the wide view.
Drag Race– 50 or 100 meters.
– The aim is to reach top speed.
– Suitable for beginners.
– Pilots must accelerate and operate the drone at top speed.
– Maneuverability is not required because the track is a straight line.
Time Trial– Single competitors speed through a course.
– The best finishing time wins.
– Suitable for intermediate and advanced pilots.
– Pilots control the drone wearing goggles (FPV) where they can see the video streaming from their drone.
– No supporter or co-pilot is involved.

The Track

Drone tracks can be as simple as a 100m sprint for a drag race to more complex rollercoaster style obstacle courses in stadiums like a time trial. Drone racing isn’t all based on speed.

There are many obstacles the pilot must quickly overcome to fly the ‘best line’, such as passing through uneven gates, avoiding the dreaded crash out.

The Supporter

Like in aviation, some drone races require “co-pilots” or the supporter. Since the pilot has the FPV goggles on, their vision is limited to the drone lens – which only points forward. The supporter’s role is to watch the race as a whole and guide the main pilot where appropriate.

An example of where the supporter adds value is by giving the pilot visibility of where other competing drones are in the race.

The Judges

In drone league races, everything happens at a rapid pace. Therefore, league judges are on-site to watch live video feeds, apply penalties for missed gates, or let the pilot know so they can go around again.

The Drone Racing League (DRL)

Many different Drone Racing Leagues have cropped up across the globe. Perhaps the most prolific drone race is held by the Drone Racing League. This international professional body started just five years ago, in 2015.

This league uses First Person View (FPV) racing where the pilot controls a drone equipped with cameras by wearing goggles that stream the live video feed from the drones, so they feel like they’re flying from inside the drone.

The goal is to complete an extremely difficult racecourse as quickly as possible and ahead of the other pilots in that heat. Competitions are held in stadiums worldwide and with pilots flying virtually in the DRL SIM, the true-to-life drone racing simulator.

Popular Drone Racing Leagues

Drone Racing LeagueLeague Description
The Drone Racing League (DRL)As mentioned above, the DRL is a global, professional drone racing circuit for world-leading pilots. The DRL season includes different races where pilots accumulate points. Only those with the highest number of points qualify for the World Championship.
The DRL supplies pilots with drones, backup drones, and parts by the league.
MultiGP Racing LeagueOffers over 500 chapters across the globe that host events and classes for FPV racers. There are over 16,000 members in this league.
The MultiGP allows participants to supply their drones, creating a competitive edge, and drives innovative designs and thinking.
Drone Racing World eSportsOnline drone racing events where pilots from across the globe compete on a Multi-Play eSport simulator.

Do You Have What It Takes To Race In Drone Racing Leagues?

When it comes to drone racing, the competition is fierce. Pilots come from all walks of life, such as aeromodelling disciplines and gaming backgrounds.

So You Want To Become A Pilot?

Competing in drone racing is competitive but is fun and a good way to join a community of like-minded people. People with a genuine interest in online gaming, technology, and science tend to gravitate to this sport. If you possess the following skills, you may be a great fit for drone racing:

  • Good hand to eye coordination
  • The ability to perform under pressure
  • Mechanically minded working the drones.

The bottom line is, if you want to become a top-notch pilot, then practice makes perfect – lots of practice. Dip your toes in and try practicing on a simulator like the Drone Race League Simulator.

Once you are 100% ready to get started in drone racing, it is time to start looking at the equipment you need to get started.

The Equipment Required To Get Started

Purchasing a drone and goggles can be a significant financial outlay. Before investing in state-of-the-art equipment, talk to drone racers and experts for some guidance.

Your Drone

The drones used in professional leagues are made for a purpose and significantly differ from ordinary recreational options. The specs for racing drones are:

  • Weigh under 250g (0.55 pounds)
  • Have a powerful electric motor that can accelerate to more than 100km/h within seconds
  • Can withstand rough use
  • Must guarantee a long flight
  • Must be battery-powered
  • Come with an onboard camera to feedback to pilot’s goggles
  • Have parts that can be easily replaced in case of a crash.

Racing league drones vary in price and can range from $200 to $1000 in price. There is also the option to either purchase off the shelf or to build from scratch.

Your Goggles

When it comes to professional drone racing, the drone and goggles go hand in glove. If you want to compete in serious drone league races, you’ll need to invest in a pair of first-person view (FPV) goggles.

FPV goggles link to your drone’s camera giving the pilot an “immersive” real-time view of how they track the race.

Your Practice Course

You know what they say? Practice makes perfect.

To perfect the art of flying through obstacles at a fast pace, you will need access to a large, open space to set up your race track. When you are mapping out your practice course, remember to put safety first. The table below outlines a handful of safety tips to consider when flying your drone. Can you think of anything else?

Safety RulesDescription
Avoid racing in public placesIf your drone malfunctions, it could damage the surrounding people or property.
Don’t use damaged dronesReplace damaged drone components before you use them. By doing this, you reduce the risk of mid-flight malfunctions and potentially losing races.
Avoid catching a falling droneNever try catching a drone that is falling. The spinning rotors could hurt you. Let it fall to the ground before collecting.
Land in a designated areaAlways try to land your drone in a specific area, like on a launching pad, for example.
Check your batteriesIf your drone has been in an accident, it may have damaged your battery. A damaged battery has the potential to explode or ignite in flight. When your drone falls from the sky, always check your battery to ensure it is not damaged.

Final Thoughts On Drone Racing Leagues

If you are interested in launching yourself into the Drone Racing League circuit, we suggest starting small. Look around in your local community for racing events near you and join a drone racing league.

Alternatively, before financially committing, you should attend an event as a spectator to see what all the buzz is about.

Jeremiah Burnett

What started as a gift for my two sons turned into a major hobby for me! After playing with my sons' quadcopter one winter afternoon, I quickly became obsessed with all things drone. I enjoy precision flying, creating stunning and smooth aerial videos, and taking beautiful photos of my hometown.

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