The drone racing world just leaped over a huge hurdle when it comes to popularizing the sport of drone racing. The Drone Racing League on Tuesday announced the launch of its first-ever 5G DRL racing drone, which makes it possible to live stream high-definition racing footage. Now, fans can see the pilot’s first person view racing footage in real-time over a high-definition feed with minimal latency or delay.
Dubbed the Magenta 5G drone, it marks one of the first racing drones in the world to have an embedded 5G module capable of live streaming video directly to the Internet. 5G is largely seen as crucial to popularizing drone racing and making it more accessible by allowing all spectators views of the dizzying, FPV views that racing drones can show.
With a dual-FPV and HD-streaming camera system, the drone will be able to film mile-long drone racing courses, made possible through the 5G connection as well as its 5s lipo battery setup for extended flight time. And while the drone won’t compete with the zippiest racing drones, it can still fly more than 60 miles per hour.
The 5G component of Magenta is done through a partnership with wireless network provider T-Mobile. DRL Pilots currently fly via analog radio transmissions. While that allows for lower latency, there’s a trade-off in the technology; they sacrifice crisp quality footage in their goggles. But as 5G technology improves, pilots will be able to see high-quality, crisp FPV footage in their goggles with low latency. For fans, it means the ability to experience FPV clips on their own mobile devices to gain that same sensation that they are flying inside the drone in real-time.
The deal with T-Mobile to bring higher-quality drone racing footage to fans could potentially be a huge win for DRL, which is already seen as a leader in drone racing. DRL is a global, professional drone racing property, consisting of all aspects of the FPV and drone racing lifestyle, including putting on worldwide events, selling simulators for folks to practice on gaming devices at home, creating its own custom-built racing drones and broadcasting races on TV. Since DRL was created in 2015, it has raised millions of dollars in funding from investors including Hearst Ventures, Muse lead singer Matthew Bellamy, and Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross’s venture-capital firm RSE Ventures.
Why telecom giants are jumping on 4G and 5G
Many telecom giants are rapidly jumping into not just being leaders in 4G and 5G, but trying to lead when it comes to 4G and 5G in drones.
Just last week, French drone maker Parrot announced an exclusive partnership with T-Mobile competitor Verizon to bring the first out-of-the-box, Verizon 4G LTE connected drone solution to the United States. That means that now you can fly with your Parrot ANAFI Ai drone from anywhere there’s a signal with near real time data transfer.
And generally speaking, 5G is considered important for complex drone operations in ensuring a better drone connection, which is important for both safety in ensuring no flyaways or crashes, and also usefulness in allowing faster transfers of larger datasets. Any drone flight beyond the operator’s line of sight — including multi-mile energy infrastructure inspection, first response to find lost hikers in the woods or police activity — requires a reliably strong signal. A lost connection could be detrimental, typically resulting in flyaways or crashes.
But T-Mobile is one of the first and few to hone in on drone racing.
“Drones are one of the most compelling use cases for 5G and we’re working towards a future where all drones will eventually be 5G-connected – that’s why we’ve teamed up with DRL, to fuel this innovation,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile.
And sure, it’s unlikely 5G racing drones are saving lives by finding lost hikers in the woods. But 5G and drone racing go hand-in-hand as the new 5G-enabled drone could redefine sports entertainment, capturing exhilarating, crisp video footage.
“The Drone Racing League is a perfect case study for showcasing the benefits of T-Mobile 5G wireless technology with our high-speed racing drones,” said DRL President Rachel Jacobson. “Our fans love innovation and discovering how new technology is developed, and we know our 5G-enabled drone will get them excited about new ways they will be able to experience the immersive thrill of professional drone racing.”
See a little bit more about how the 5G DRL racing drone was made in the video (created by T-Mobile and DRL) below. The short documentary covers DRL engineers hand-building an initial prototype of the drone in the DRL lab in New York City, testing it for the first time and more:
What to expect from the 5G DRL racing drone
You can see the 5G DRL racing drone in action this week at the MLB At Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. No surprise, the event is sponsored by T-Mobile. As part of the event, the Magenta 5G drone will zip through nooks and crannies of the stadium, giving fans a largely never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes view of the iconic ballpark and movie site. The drone will fly from the cornfields to the set of the Field of Dreams house to the original ball field, and then on to the MLB field where the long-awaited Field of Dreams Game will be played.
After that, DRL said it intends to feature the 5G Magenta drone through its 2021-22 season at various DRL and T-Mobile events. While it won’t necessarily race, the drone will fly around the course and film previews of the three-dimensional race tracks during and ahead of the actual races.
DRL also said it intends to improve the Magenta 5G drone in future iterations, including allowing the 5G model to connect to the drone’s command and control functions to enable flight over T-Mobile 5G.