International Dimensions of Drone Racing

Our first post offered a brief company overview of Skynex Global Drones, Ltd. Our second post examined the definition of "drone", and our third post examined the meaning and understanding of "drones" in popular culture, and how Hollywood, for the most part, places drones in a negative spotlight by depicting them as autonomous military and intelligence killing machines. With the new year ringing in, our third post nominated the H520 hexacopter drone, a highly versatile commercial and industrial drone, as the best drone to look forward to in 2018. A follow-up on our third post, our post offered a glimpse of how Steven Spielberg, through the movie "*Batteries Not Included", depicted drones as friendly subservient machines that can come to the aid of humans. In our last post, we looked at how the meaning of "drone" is being redefined by the sports and entertainment sector by looking at the Drone Racing League. This post takes a second look at drone racing, this time in its international dimensions, and how the competitive nature of the sport is propelling innovations in the drone industry forward.

Aside from the DRL, which is primarily a US-based professional drone racing league, other amateur and professional drone racing leagues and associations continue to emerge around the world, redefining the meaning and public's understanding of drones. Perhaps one of the most obvious and noteworthy examples to this effect is the International Drone Racing Association (“IDRA”), an association that was founded by entrepreneur Justin Haggerty. The fact that the IDRA describes itself as an association, rather than a league, is telling in regards to its aim and purpose. The IDRA describes its mission statement as follows:

The IDRA strives to grow this amazing community of tinkerers, dreamers, and innovators. We bring the sport and drone racing experience to spectators’ computers, mobile devices, and VR goggles. We market brands and products through sponsorships, social media campaigns, and licensing services via media and events. IDRA’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Campaign educates viewers on drone technologies and increases consumer awareness of the industry’s products and services. [1]

As the DRL was launching its 1st season, the IDRA was going global as it launched a series of drone races across the world. The 2016 final, the “ World Drone Prix”, took place in Dubai, with USD$250,000 in prize money attaching to first place, a prize which was won by 15 year old UK national Luke Bannister from team Tornado X-Blades Banni UK.[2] The IDRA’s World Drone Prix, which can be viewed on YouTube, was also featured in a sensational ad entitled “ Drone vs McLaren in Dubai”, in which a drone can be seen racing a McLaren in the streets of Dubai.

In 2017, while the DRL was saddling up for its season 2, the IDRA and its partner NASCAR were prepping for the first race of the 2017 IDRA’s drone racing series, which took place at the Dover International Speedway. Unlike the DRL, which featured individual pilots competing against one another, the IDRA’s 2017 season featured 16 professional teams, with four (4) pilots on each team, and a pit crew. Whereas most DRL races were 4 out of 6 races took place in the U.S. (Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Boston, the last two races taking place in Munich and London respectively), the IDRA’s drone races were held in Portugal, South Korea, Russia, China, and Amsterdam. The IDRA is in that sense more cosmopolitan, and places an emphasis on team spirit and collaboration. Like the DRL, the IDRA has played a significant role in promoting a positive image of drones within the global community. As well, it continues to inspire amateur FPV drone racing enthusiast, both young and old.


[1]See, for instance, the “IDRA’s Safety Manual”, in which it states: “IDRA has a vested interest in ensuring the safe operation of all aerial based systems under the team’s banner. The joy and excitement of a brand new era of pilotage drives our commitment to ensure IDRA constituents know and understand the procedures that will maximize safety of flight. To meet this goal, pilots must focus on the adherence to federally mandated guidelines and the development of new drone technologies. Doing so will ensure not only protection of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) but all national airspace (NAS) users. This manual offers key instruction to help pilots fly safely. Being responsible is up to you.” International Drone Racing Association,“IDRA’s Safety Manual – Measures to Keep Our Pilots Flying”, available online at: http://www.idra.co/wp-content/uploads/IDRA-Safety-Manual.pdf, last visited on October 22, 2017.[1] International Drone Racing Association , “About the IDRA”, available online: http://www.idra.co/about-idra/, last viewed on October 22, 2017.

[2]XBlades Racing describes itself at the world’s leading drone racing team. The team describes itself as being “driven by the pursuit of Technological and Performance Excellent”, and as bringing together the “world’s greatest Freestyle and Racing Talent and match it with cutting edge Racing Drone Technology”. XBlades Racing, “Who Are We”, available online at: https://www.xbladesracing.com/, last viewed on October 23, 217.