With the Allianz World Championship just a few weeks away, today the Drone Racing League (DRL) have debuted their third-generation racing drone, the DRL Racer 3, and it’s a beast.
The 2017 Season, known as the Allianz World Championship following a partnership earlier this year, will be a huge for the DRL as not only will this be the first time they’ve partnered with a huge, globally renown organisation for the event, but the event will also be on TV in over 70 countries. In addition, it’ll be the live debut of the DRL Racer3, the third generation racing drone developed by DRL themselves.
With an incredible amount of improvements over the DRL Racer2, this new drone can go from 0-80MPH in under a second hitting top speeds of 85 MPH, which alone is impressive, but there’s so much more.
“A lot of specific things have been improved with the Racer3. We have dramatically increased the power-to-weight ratio, so we have an 8:1 power-to-weight ratio on it now which is double what it was with the Racer2 which is what we used in the 2016 Season and that’s great because it gives it incredible acceleration,” said DRL CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski to n3rdabl3.
“This thing goes from 0 to 80 MPH in less than a second, which is really important in a sport where there’s a tremendous amount of turning and areal manoeuvres where people are accelerating all the time. It gives it a top speed of 85 MPH, and from a pure racing adrenaline perspective there’s nothing better than increasing speed an acceleration on a race course.”
With this improved power-to-weight ratio, drone pilots will now be able to pull off some impressive moves throughout the course of the race from turning quicker, or simply being able to dive and recover much better too. This, according to Horbaczewski is going to “dramatically” change up the racing compared to what we saw in the 2016 Season.
In among the various improvements on the DRL Racer3 is probably the most stand-out feature and that’s the new polycarbonate shell which has a “stealth-inspired” design. This new shell is incredibly tough and will allow pilots to take more risks during races.
“Drones can take more damage before they come down,” explained Horbaczewski. “They can clip a wall, or the ground, or they can rub against each other in the air or bump into each other and still continue flying. Which I think adds a whole other layer to the sport, that they’re so durable that the racing can be even more aggressive, even more closer proximity, as the pilots aren’t as afraid of bumping into each other or being knocked out of the air.
“We’ve thought about putting a shell on the drones from the very beginning, and last year we had a full carbon fibre exterior and it served us well, but we’ve really put a lot of research into how to design these shells, how to protect the components, it forced us to miniaturise many of the components in a way we hadn’t before and pack them in even tighter.
Despite plans to add a tough shell on the drones from the beginning, Horbaczewski said that a lot of R&D was involved to ensure that they could build, manufacture and maintain the 400+ drones being used during the season.
“You have to think about not only, what would be phenomenal racing and what’s a great race, but how you’re actually going to manufacture these, and we hand assemble every one of them in our office in New York. So you’ve got to think through every element from sourcing to production to racing to repair, whenever you make a change to the drone,” he concluded.
The full spec-sheet for the drone is incredibly impressive and you can truly see that a lot of work has gone into creating a drone that’s not only a fantastic racer, but is also durable and long-lasting, especially when they’re being constantly put through their paces
- Acceleration: 0-80 in under 1 second
- Top Speed: 85 MPH
- Altitude: Above the clouds (6-8 km)
- Fleet: Over 450 identically designed, hand-built elite racing drones
- 16 Pounds Of Thrust, 8:1 Power To Weight Ratio
- High Voltage Powertrain For Quick Motor Acceleration
- Stealth-Like, Diffused Polycarbonate Shell
- 210 RGB Leds For Pilot Identification And Visibility
- 6” Triblade Props For Agility And Traction
- F3 + Spi Mpu6000 + Betaflight For Flight Control
- Custom 1800Mah Internal 5-Cell Lipo Battery
- Proprietary Internal Long Range Radios For Live Events And Broadcast
- Carbon fiber frame
- Weight: 900 grams
Over the past 18 months things have gone from 0-100 for the DRL. And while they had huge ambitions to become the “F1 of drone racing” they’ve achieved that, and then some. The 2016 Season alone has some impressive stats, with the season being broadcast in 40 countries including ESPN in the States and Sky Sports here in the UK, accumulating a total of 30 million viewers.
“I’m sure when we were talking a year ago we had big ambition, but I don’t think we’d have dared to dream that now going into 2017 season that it’d be on TV in over 75 countries, almost doubling our broadcast reach, we’ve got partners like Alliance, Bud Light, who are obviously incredible brands and incredible supporters with of we’re doing.” said Horbaczewski.
“When we started working on this, we had dreams that the technology would live up to our hope for the sport, and I think we’re really achieving that now with the Racer3. So it’s definitely been a journey and there have certainly been challenges along the way, but it’s really nice now. We get stopped when wearing a DRL shirt by someone who’s like ‘oh my god I saw that on TV! I loved it, it’s so cool, what are the pilots really like? How do they do it? How do the drones work?’ and we’re like, ‘wow we’ve got fans out there and they’re really interested in the sport’ getting invested in it, and that is incredibly satisfying.”
The Allianz World Championship will start airing on June 20 in the US at 8PM on ESPN. The season will consist of six events, four regular season events held in the United States which will see 16 pilots be whittled down to 12, those 12 will then be entered into the Playoff Event which is being held in Munich, Germany, and finally the top 8 will come to the Championship Event that’s being held at Alexandra Palace here in London.