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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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U.S.

US Air Force finding future airmen at FPV drone races

Jul 28, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Pilots, power your drones. The United States Air Force is going all-in on first-person view (FPV) drone racing. After years of partnering with the Drone Racing League, the Air Force will sponsor a pilot and flight deck for the league’s 2023-2024 season.

Founded in 2015, the Drone Racing League (DRL) touts itself as the world’s premier professional drone racing organization. Pilots compete by maneuvering custom-built quadcopters through the air at 90 miles per hour. The drones stream video to goggles worn by the pilots.

Racing events are held all over the world. Races have been held at stadiums and historic sites in Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia. The sport of the future, however, isn’t hindered by the physical limitations of reality.

Professional pilots, and fans of the sport, can hone their skills online using the DRL simulator. And just because the crashes aren’t real doesn’t mean the excitement isn’t. Some simulated races racked up more than 250 million views online.

The long-standing partnership between the league and the Air Force is on full display on courses like “The Boneyard,” where pilots fly drones through a simulated obstacle course full of some of the Air Force’s most iconic craft.

The DRL and the Air Force also partnered together on the creation of a series of videos called FPV 101. The collection contains dozens of videos that teach new FPV hobbyists everything they need to know to get started in the world of drone racing.

FPV drone racing is a sport filled with fans who love tech and tinkering. Two skills the Air Force is looking for as it looks to fill its ranks.

It’s no secret the military is having a hard time recruiting, regardless of branch. The Air Force is on a course to miss its recruiting goal by 10% this year.

But in drone racing, the Air Force found a sympathetic audience. According to the DRL’s internal data, more than 80% of fans favor collaboration with the Air Force. DRL fans are also 30 times more likely to engage with the Air Force on social media.

“The world’s best pilots fly in the U.S. Air Force and race in the Drone Racing League, and that’s the magic of our partnership,” DRL President Rachel Jacobson said in a statement. “We put a spotlight on high performance through tech-driven competition, leveling up our fans with new, multifaceted STEM skills that are transferable across all industries, including entertainment, mobility and security.”

At the same time, the Air Force is becoming more reliant on drones as it looks to future engagements. Pilots who fly the Next Generation Air Dominance Fighter will be in the air with unmanned wingmen. Swarms of drones are also a real possibility in future conflict zones. So, the skill-sets to further develop the technology, and find new ways to use it, are in high demand today.

In an article published by Military Times, Brig. Gen. Christopher Amrhein, the commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, said DRL fans make ideal recruits for the USAF, and they’re a core reason why the service continues to partner with the league year after year.

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PILOTS, POWER YOUR DRONES. THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE IS GOING ALL-IN ON FIRST-PERSON VIEW, OR FPV, DRONE RACING. AFTER YEARS OF PARTNERING WITH THE DRONE RACING LEAGUE, THE AIR FORCE WILL SPONSOR A PILOT AND FLIGHT DECK FOR THE DRL 2023-2024 SEASON.

FOUNDED IN 2015, THE DRONE RACING LEAGUE TOUTS ITSELF AS THE WORLD’S PREMIER PROFESSIONAL DRONE RACING ORGANIZATION. PILOTS MANEUVER CUSTOM BUILT QUADCOPTERS THROUGH THE AIR AT 90 MILES PER HOUR. THE DRONES STREAM VIDEO TO GOGGLES WORN BY THE PILOTS, THUS THE FIRST-PERSON VIEW MONIKER.

RACING EVENTS ARE HELD ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT THE SPORT OF THE FUTURE ISN’T HINDERED BY THE PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS OF REALITY.

SO, PROFESSIONAL PILOTS, AND FANS OF THE SPORT, CAN HONE THEIR SKILLS ONLINE USING THE DRL SIMULATOR. AND JUST BECAUSE THE CRASHES AREN’T REAL DOESN’T MEAN THE EXCITEMENT ISN’T. SOME SIMULATED RACES RACKED UP MORE THAN 250 MILLION VIEWS ONLINE.

THE LONG-STANDING PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE LEAGUE AND THE AIR FORCE IS ON FULL DISPLAY ON COURSES LIKE THE BONEYARD, WHERE PILOTS FLY DRONES THROUGH A SIMULATED OBSTACLE COURSE FULL OF SOME OF THE AIR FORCE’S MOST ICONIC CRAFT.

FPV DRONE RACING IS A SPORT FILLED WITH FANS WHO LOVE TECH AND TINKERING. TWO SKILLS THE AIR FORCE IS LOOKING FOR AS IT LOOKS TO FILL ITS RANKS.

IT’S NO SECRET THE MILITARY IS HAVING A HARD TIME RECRUITING, REGARDLESS OF BRANCH. THE AIR FORCE IS ON A COURSE TO MISS ITS RECRUITING GOAL BY 10% THIS YEAR.

BUT IN DRONE RACING, THE AIR FORCE FOUND A SYMPATHETIC AUDIENCE. ACCORDING TO THE DRL’S INTERNAL DATA, MORE THAN 80% OF FANS FAVOR COLLABORATION WITH THE AIR FORCE. DRL FANS ARE ALSO 30 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO ENGAGE WITH THE AIR FORCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE AIR FORCE IS BECOMING MORE RELIANT ON DRONES. FUTURE NGAD FIGHTER PILOTS WILL FLY WITH UNMANNED WINGMEN. SO, THE SKILL-SETS TO FURTHER DEVELOP THE TECHNOLOGY, AND FIND NEW WAYS TO USE IT, ARE IN HIGH DEMAND.

ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDER OF THE AIR FORCE RECRUITING SERVICE, THE DRL FANS MAKE IDEAL RECRUITS FOR THE USAF, AND THEY’RE A CORE REASON WHY THE AIR FORCE CONTINUES TO PARTNER WITH THE LEAGUE YEAR AFTER YEAR.

FOR MORE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ON THE AIR FORCE AND MILITARY RECRUITING, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT SAN.COM.