The future of sports has arrived! The Drone Racing League was created thanks to innovative technology and a dream to succeed. Known for it’s fast-paced style of flying, drones are no longer seen as a toy, but as a competitive tool. The DRL just recently had the finals of their latest competition in London. For the second year in a row, Jordan “Jet” Temkin won. In a press release by the DRL, “Jet” was ecstatic to be a part of this league. He stated:
“Being named the 2017 DRL Allianz World Champion feels surreal, and winning for a second season proves that practice pays off. Winning DRL allows me to continue doing what I love: drone racing all day, every day.”
The young Drone Racing League has CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski to thank for it’s success. Double G Sports had the opportunity to interview Nicholas and discuss a variety of topics. Here is an in-depth look at the man behind one of the most innovative leagues in all of sports.
Double G Sports: How happy are you with how the season went?
Nicholas Horbaczewski: 2017 was a huge step forward for us as a league. From a structural level we were beyond happy. For it to come down to 0.4 seconds in the final race of the championship makes it one of the most exciting sporting conclusions in recent memory.
DGS: How much planning is involved when it comes to the Drone Racing League?
NH: It’s a nonstop process. Even with the 2017 season over with, we are already planning for the 2018 season. We never really stop. Every event takes months of planning. It’s a combination of creating a three-dimensional course in a unique space, while bringing a number of different technologies together and making them work in sync. Having great pilots and teaching them about the course while making it all work for TV makes it one huge operation with multiple layers.
DGS: With all of this technology and planning, how are you able to handle it all?
NH: It takes a lot of teamwork. We have an incredible group of people working for us, especially Ashley Ellefson, who runs our our operations team. We also have Tony Budding who runs the media components of the league. They both work hand in hand. To get this going, it’s all about careful planning. Our league has the same amount of planning as other sports, while also adding in the drone component. One of the things that makes DRL different from other drone racing leagues is that we use all proprietary technology; everything you see we design.
DGS: What interested you into starting the Drone Racing League?
NH: Prior to DRL, I was the Chief Revenue Officer at Tough Mudder. I worked with another organization that became a global brand. I left in 2015 to look for what I wanted to be the next big sport that could be grown into another global franchise. My goals brought me to drone racing. Just watching them go, it became one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I became obsessed with the question, “If we professionalize it, and we did it right, could you turn it into something that could entertain audiences around the world?”
It was exciting to start the 2017 season, and it moved us that much closer to answering that question.
Comparing Tough Mudder and DRL: They are both activities that captivate the imagination of a group of people. Tough Mudder to me is a great community bonding experience. I became so captivated by drone racing because it reminded me of these old sci-fi movies and video games that I used to watch and play growing up.
DGS: What is your long-term goal for the DRL?
NH: We want to build the next big racing sport. We want to ensure it’s a fair and exciting sporting competition. At this point, we are in the process of creating a fanbase for it by exposure via TV deals. The idea is to create a sport that is more accessible to the millennial digital generation compared to the traditional racing sports that are out there now.
Racing sports have been around for a long time. I actually love them. Today however, the races are very long, sometimes two hours or more. In addition, the moments of excitement are very punctuated. That isn’t terribly suited for people today who are rushing to see the next big thing right away. An individual race in the DRL is about one minute long. I can give you the complete sporting experience: takeoff, passing, crashing, someone wins, someone loses, in a minute. Alternatively, I can give you a two hour broadcast that shows every little detail. The former is favorable for digital and linear content. It’s one of the things that makes it unique from a format perspective. It all comes down to variety and flexibility.
DGS: Are you looking to include other types of participants? Celebrities?
NH: Our core mission right now is to find the greatest drone racer on earth. Down the line it may be a possibility. A few months ago we actually had Deadmau5 challenge some of our pilots. If more celebrities become fans in the future that would be great.
In regards to drone fanatic Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians: We actually correspond with Trevor. He even got a drone from us (not the one that he used in the playoffs last year). I would not rule out a second career as a professional drone racer for Trevor whenever he is done with baseball.
DGS: What other Guinness World Records are you vying for?
NH: We just set the last one for building the fastest racing drone on earth. The goal was to test what we could do, so we called Guinness. We are satisfied with what we have. I’m sure we will take advantage of the next opportunity down the line. We are really just scratching the surface with all of this technology. We are building the first team of technical engineers to work exclusively on these drones. What they are coming up with now will change the course of history.
DGS: You won the Advertising Age Creativity – Startup to Watch 2017 award. Do you think this is the breakout year for DRL? Have you reached the top or is there room for growth?
NH: A well-known personality reminded me that DRL isn’t even at the beginning, it’s at the beginning of the beginning. We are two-years old, and are barely scratching the surface of what we want to do with it. 2017 was an important year for us, bringing the sport to a mainstream audience like ESPN and Sky Sports UK. Our ambitions go far beyond that and I believe that we will continue to push the envelope. We have an opportunity to enhance relationships within the real and digital world, while also gaining a new market of fans.
Interested in the DRL? All the information you need to know is on their website.