The Drone Racing League is keeping an eye out for “the greatest drone racer on earth,” and they could be worth a lot of money, according to Drone Racing League CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski.
The DRL Allianz World Championship begins Tuesday on ESPN, with the prize money for the winner set at $100,000. Sixteen racers will travel around the world, flying their drones in an array of venues from NFL stadiums to abandoned malls.
The league also announced in a statement it will collaborate with the Amazon Prime Video series “The Grand Tour” for its 2017 championship. This mirrors the expanding industry of drone technology — according to a new study by PwC, the emerging market for business services using drones is valued at over $127 billion, affecting industries from agriculture to filmmaking.
“We are a small part of a multibillion-dollar growing drone industry,” said Horbaczewski in an interview Monday on “Power Lunch.” “What we find is, everybody these days either has a drone, they want a drone, they’re learning how to fly them, and people are finding commercial and consumer applications for them. And we’re just a piece of that. We’re a great outlet, a good reason to go out and fly drones.”
The drones are designed and built by the league, which is a sports and media company, and are crafted differently for every race. Each model is worth from $500 to $1000, and can travel from 80 to 90 miles an hour. In order to prevent racers from cheating, standardized equipment is used and the company “[doesn’t] even let the participants touch the drones during the competition,” according to Horbaczewski.
Pilots are scouted and recruited from amateur drone racing competitions. They can also try out through a video game, where their skills are evaluated virtually. Most participants are in their mid- to late twenties, which is the peak age for the sport, according to Horbaczewski.
“It’s a combination of hand-eye coordination, very good depth perception and also the ability to stay calm under pressure,” said Horbaczewski, when asked to describe the criteria for chosen pilots. “We actually find a lot of people come into this sport through things like motorcycle racing and car racing, because they’ve got the nerves for it.”
— CNBC’s Gino Siniscalchi contributed to this report.