Dolphins' Stephen Ross putting $1M behind Drone Racing League

ByDarren Rovell ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is investing in a potential new sport: drone racing.

The Drone Racing League, which will pit drone specialists who are self-taught from the video game world against those who flew unmanned planes for the military, hopes to fly a season of races next year.

Ross is betting $1 million on it.

"We backed it because it has all the makings of a modern-day sport, Twitch meets Formula One," said Matt Higgins, president and CEO of RSE Ventures, Ross' sports and entertainment investment firm. "The pilots have to have great reflexes and hone their skills over hours and hours of practice. And first-person viewing lends itself to an amazing spectator experience with virtual reality."

Pilots who race the drones wear glasses that put them inside the cockpit of their planes, which go up to 70 mph.

Nick Horbaczewski, the CEO of the league, said the sport will first be presented on television and then evolve to having spectators in the stands. Horbaczewski said they are hoping the sport will take on a NASCAR-type competitiveness.

"To start, we will have competitors using the same drones, but eventually we see teams building drones and having their own pit crews," Horbaczewski said.

The league had a test run in Yonkers, New York, in July, as drone pilots navigated in and out of a dilapidated old building.

The drone league is a spinoff of the e-sports world, which has garnered a significant amount of investment over the past year and a half.

Horbaczewski said the space is so new, as drones have been available to consumers for only about a year, that the league plans to actively recruit to find the best pilots in the world.

RSE Ventures already owns FanVision, which allows NASCAR fans to get a view of the inside of cars during a race. That technology could prove important to the Drone Racing League to give pilots the tools to fly effectively using the first-person cockpit view.

Said Higgins: "It's hard to predict exactly where it goes, but it's going somewhere."