The Drone Racing League – a.k.a. Death Race 2016
I think their CEO said it best: “You were promised Star Wars and you got a Saturday afternoon barbecue in a field.”
That was the first impression I had of seeing a high-speed FPV quad (drone) race for the first time in person. It was cool for me, sure, because I knew of the skill involved… but it looked boring as hell. You may as well have been watching bees gather pollen. No offense to bee keepers, but bees suck.
The Drone Racing League (DRL) is looking to change all that. They’ve got top pilots, they’ve chosen great locations, and they’ve got a budget of over $8 million to try and make this work.
Some big names have backed the DRL – Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, lead singer of the rock band Muse, Matt Bellamy – and it shows. They line the race courses with neon lights ala Tron, they crank up the fog machines, and they manufacture pilot drama. We’ll get back to that…
On the surface this looks great. It’s got a cool post-apocalyptic cyberpunk vibe and I am into it. Beneath the surface there is some serious tech work too. These aren’t large outdoor courses like you’d see at an RC event, these guys set up tracks in abandoned warehouses and football stadiums and they make use of every square foot. These tracks are indoor, outdoor, and incredibly vertical. If you were to attempt this yourself with off-the-shelf RC gear you would pretty much be guaranteed to fail. Traditional RC and FPV gear lacks the penetration required to keep a solid video feed when flying around concrete and steel, so these guys said “screw that noise” (see what I did there?) and created their own radio tech. That’s dedication.
So will anyone care? That’s a hard question. Drones are hot right now, so they’ve got that going for them, but we the people move on pretty quickly. EVERYONE has a drone now, so don’t be surprised if everyone sort of just stops giving a shit in a few months. Drones could be the next Furbee. Or Beanie Babies. Not to the RC crowd of course, but to the general public.
The DRL is hoping we WILL still care, and they’re banking on the theatrics and personal drama between pilots. In other words, it’s a reality show with what I can only hope are scripted “trash-talk” segments. To hear a well-known pilot like Steele talking about how the other pilot’s are all “p***ys” and he’s “in it to win it” is pretty lame. I mean, maybe he is that arrogant in person, but that grin on his face in the video makes me think he knows this is a bit over the top.
Still, I’m going to watch it because I’m sold. I like the pretty lights, I love the course design, and I WANT to see it succeed…
I just don’t want to see it on SpikeTV.