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Business Is Booming For The Leaders In Drone Racing

The battle is on for supremacy in the world of drone racing, with the Drone Racing League dueling against DR1 Racing to be the favored drone racing platform. It is a battle for eyeballs and sponsor appreciation, and the Drone Racing League got out to a head start by securing Allianz as title sponsor in a five-year, multi-million dollar deal.

DR1 Racing intends to close the gap with its own announcement that it has landed logistics company DHL as title sponsor of its league, joining Mountain Dew as companies that are spending seven-figures to associate with the startup drone racing entity.

That makes for serious money being spent by sponsors to be a part of racing tiny objects by use of joysticks, controlled by individuals wearing headsets who prepare for and study courses with the goal of being the best in this sport of drone racing. Those drone "pilots" have the opportunity to make big money as well, despite the relative infancy of the industry.

The top ranked DR1 Racing drone pilot, Luke Bannister, is bringing in an income of six-figures from sponsorship, according to DR1 Racing founder Brad Foxhoven. That does not include Bannister's earnings from actual events such as the $250,000 he received from winning the World Drone Prix in Dubai in 2016.

The World Drone Prix was a special event with a unique prize. Both DR1 Racing and the Drone Racing League are, respectively, offering a lower $100,000 pot for this year's winner. Six figures to the winner of a drone racer is still nothing to scoff at.

As is often the case, these businesses in the Drone Racing League and DR1 Racing have boomed largely based on the attractiveness of the sport to television broadcasters, which has in turn led to sponsorship interest and enhanced prize pools. Drone Racing League has a TV rights deal with ESPN, Sky and ProSieben, which is a TV station in Germany, where drone racing is very popular. DR1 Racing has a deal with Eurosport and Fox Sports Asia and streams much of its content online through Twitch.

DR1 Racing has successfully solicited sponsors beyond DHL and Mountain Dew, including Dell, Army and Air Hogs. Meanwhile, Drone Racing League has secured Swatch, FORTO Coffee, Bud Light and Air Force to sponsorships.

Valuing the two entities is a bit more difficult, especially as they are technically startups in an industry that is only a few years old. DR1 Racing is privately held and operating without outside investment. Meanwhile, Drone Racing League has closed multiple rounds of fundraising to the tune of more than $32 million, with its most recent round at a whopping $20 million led by Sky, Liberty Media Corporation and Lux Capital.

The question of which drone racing entity will prevail over the other is not yet answered, and the industry may grow large enough for each to stabilize and profit off of its respective market share. But what has become clear is that there is certainly a market for drone racing and DR1 Racing along with Drone Racing League are off to a great start.


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