Does a New Season Equal a New Reason to Watch?
Truth be told, I haven’t paid much attention to the Drone Racing League in the past year. Yet, something drew me to the announcement of the kickoff to the 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship. After taking some time off from watching this new form of racing entertainment, I decided to give this new season a shot.
Thinking back to the last time I watched a quadcopter/multi-rotor/drone race (from any league), it didn’t quite live up to the hype. While it was entertaining (and managed to grab the attention of my children for more than a minute), it didn’t stick past one episode. Still, I was interested enough to give it another shot.
Change is in the air…
A number of pilots from previous seasons have returned for another round of flying fun. Nurk, Jet, and Wild Willy are all racers whom I’ve seen before, but names such as Shaggy, Gab707, and Vanover were all new to me. Despite the newness, the DRL broadcast did a solid job in providing a backstory for all of the pilots.
Those “new to me” faces weren’t the only fresh look I spotted during the 2019 kickoff race. While the pilots are the stars of the show, the supporting cast is undoubtedly the DRL Racer4. Continuing to evolve their competition quadcopter, the R4 is the latest in the line of performance-bred aircraft.
With sleek lines and its bulk-shedding chassis design, the Racer4 has the look of a true competitor. While the Racer3 went a long way in eliminating the “flying brick” design of previous models, the R4 goes even further to slim down its appearance. Another notable feature of the R4 is its in-air visibility. Packed with over 900 LEDs, this quad is bright and eye-catching while in the air.
Each pilot has a corresponding color, making them easy to spot during competition. Based on previous seasons, this is a great improvement and I hope to see this pushed even further in the future. Every Racer4 is prepared identically, leaving the ultimate competition up to pilot skill and performance under pressure. This is akin to the now-defunct stock car racing series, IROC (International Race of Champions).
Another new aspect for the 2019 DRL season is their broadcast partner. Formerly on ESPN, you can now catch the action from The Drone Racing League on NBC, NBCSN, and Twitter. The broadcast for the Miami season-opener was entertaining, mixing racing action with pilot details to help you decide who to root for. To be honest, I didn’t have a “favorite” pilot who I cheered for, but rather, enjoyed each of the two-lap heat races for their overall action.
It took me a while to get used to how the heat races were set up and how they ultimately set the stage for the final race. This win-to-get-in format was something that I’ve missed from other racing series and found it to be a unique draw. The elimination-style competition doesn’t end with each race stop, as this format is also carried over to the championship race(s). For an overview of how the DRL season is set up, check out their overview.
With one race in the books, I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out. While I’m not entirely sold on this form of spectator sport, I’ve seen enough to fire up my interest for future events.
Image credit: The Drone Racing League