How many people actually watched drone racing this year? The Drone Racing League, which is a massive drone entertainment giant with races for live audiences and aired on TV through major outlets including NBC, shared some interesting stats on its viewership. And these FPV drone racing viewership numbers paint a pretty clear picture of the 2023 drone racing audience.
The drone racing market statistics are largely tied to the 2022-23 DRL Algorand World Championship Season, which kicked off its season in October 2022 with a live drone race in PayPal Park and recently held its season finale race in April 2023. Here are some of the standout data points regarding the 2023 drone racing audience, based on DRL’s most recent season:
- DRL’s global footprint reached 320 million households globally in its 2022-2023 season (that metric refers to DRL’s international media distribution expansion).
- Race viewership increased to 260 million global digital views.
- DRL’s social followers rose to 12 million social fans.
- DRL’s social media channels generated an average of 3 million video views per day.
But perhaps more interesting than the millions of people touched by the Drone Racing League is the enormous growth seen year-over-year. Compared to 2021-2022 DRL viewership stats, here’s how much bigger this year became:
- That 320 million household global footprint is up roughly 30% from last year.
- The number of global race views is up 23% from last season.
- The 12 million social followers is up 45% from last year.
Not only are more people watching drone racing, but more people are also trying it out. DRL offers games including the DRL SIM, which is a true-to-life drone racing simulator available on PlayStation, Xbox, Steam and Epic Games. Then there’s a Drone Racing Arcade game for iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as a game called Project Drone Galaxy where you can design and fly a virtual drone (with cute characters involved too). DRL says it tripled its annual gaming downloads this year.
Related read: 5 tips to master drone simulator racing
A brief history of drone racing and DRL
While it’s impossible to say for sure, many cite the first example of a “drone race” as having occurred in August 2014.
The Drone Racing League specifically was founded in 2015 by Nicholas Horbaczewski. Since then, DRL has raised millions of dollars in funding from investors including Hearst Ventures, CAA Ventures, Muse lead singer Matthew Bellamy and Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross’s venture-capital firm RSE Ventures. In 2020, DRL appointed former NBA executive Rachel Jacobson as president.
Besides creating digital games for fans, DRL also has built physical 5G DRL racing drones, which makes it possible to live stream high-definition racing footage. DRL has also sought to position itself as a player in other forms of future tech, such as through a partnership with blockchain platform Algorand and a foray into the drone racing metaverse.
And plenty more companies are diving into drone racing. Other companies besides DRL are also increasing diving into drone racing. In 2022, DJI launched an indoor, Cinewhoop-style drone called the DJI Avata, which follows its previous DJI FPV drone.
What is the market size for drone racing?
While it’s impossible to predict — and the numbers can vary depending on whom you ask — the entire, global drone market is worth an estimated $127 billion. Of course, drone racing represents just a fraction of that market share, which is shared also by other consumer drones like camera drones, but primarily by enterprise and commercial drones.
According to 2023 estimates by Polaris Market Research, which is a U.S.-based global market research and consulting company, the global racing drone market was valued at $798 million in 2022. They estimate that the drone racing market could grow to be worth more than $5 billion globally 10 years from now.
That would make the drone racing industry worth roughly the same as what investors would consider a mid-cap company — meaning far from a big name like Apple or Disney — but likely still large enough in size that normal people would have heard of it. For context, the clothing Gap brand has a market cap just under $3 billion, while fancy home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma has a market gap of just over $7 billion, so the combined drone racing industry would sit somewhere in the middle, by Polaris’ estimates.
And it feels like a reasonable. Beyond straight DRL posts, overall drone content has a collective 13 billion video views on TikTok. And drone racing could be a boon for the broader drone industry as it introduces kids to STEM careers. According to DRL, the number of national STEM jobs is expected to grow by 11% by 2030. To put that in perspective, STEM jobs are expected to increase at a 30% faster rate than jobs in the overall workforce.