Drone Pilots Race from Sailboat Steered by Olympic Gold Medalists

Drone racers and ocean racers teamed up for an unusually exciting combination of sports. The results are pretty thrilling.

The Drone Racing League partnered up with one of the world’s most professional and renown nautical-race sailing crews, Team Brunel, to become Drone x Ocean Racers. The collaboration features the best drone pilots and sailors in the world coming together for some aerial acrobatics and aquatic sportsmanship on the coast of Gothenburg, Sweden, using the bow of a 65-foot sailboat to launch drones from as the vessel faces 15-knot winds.

In case you’ve managed to keep up with the drone industry but somehow haven’t heard of the DRL, the eSport and media company has become increasingly more well-funded, popular, and mainstream in the past three years. 

From partnering with BMW to working on the world’s fastest racing drone (which the DRL holds the Guinness World Record for) to establishing itself as an eSport and media contender from France to Saudi Arabia, the DRL is steadily soaring into the popular consciousness. Naturally, the next step was to link up with Team Brunel to combine the two most organically-fused sports available: Sailing and drone racing.

Drone Racing League

As you can see from the footage captured on Tuesday, DRL pilots Niklas “UpsidedownFPV” Solle and Dino Joghi’s custom-built FPV (first-person view) DRL Racer3 drones are swooping and soaring above and around the Team Brunel boat, from which the UAVs launched and inevitably return to when landing inside the end goal. Of course, not everything went as planned on Monday, as the 15-knot winds and choppy waters caused one DRL drone to crash into the ocean with another one landing atop a nearby crane (don’t worry, it has since been recovered). 

Piloting an FPV drone is certainly simultaneously disorienting and thrilling enough when the camera’s facing you as you sit stationary in one position, but operating these UAVs while being moved across choppy water by a sailboat is surely quite another experience entirely. “It was an absolutely amazing experience to fly DRL drone from Team Brunel’s sailboat,” said Solle in a DRL press release. “It felt crazy to fly around from a swaying boat while watching it sail from the perspective of my FPV goggles.”

Drone Racing League

All in all, however, this seemed like tremendous fun, and an example of how simple it is to have fun racing UAVs and learning about other sports. As a matter of fact, three Team Brunel members were so excited to learn about drone racing that the two DRL pilots taught them how to pilot Racer3 UAVs in an abandoned factory prior to capturing this footage on the ocean. 

“Flying a DRL drone from a heeling boat was definitely one of the most memorable freestyle sessions I’ve ever had,” said Joghi in the DRL press release. “It was also interesting to have to deal with the wind in an opposite way to the sailors. While the ocean racers used the wind to spin and push the boat forward, UpsidedownFPV and I had to avoid getting our drones caught in the same wind.”

Team Brunel took the time to join DRL in this endeavor while competing in and winning the second-to-last leg of a 46,000-mile ocean race. As for Solle and Joghi, the two DRL pilots are focused on the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship Season, which concludes in Saudi Arabia later this year.