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Drone Racing League Gets Big Blockchain Sponsorship Deal With Algorand

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • The Drone Racing League (DRL) has announced a partnership deal with blockchain technologies company Algorand.
  • Earlier this year, the DRL announced a sports betting partnership with DraftKings and has previously signed a deal with data provider Genius Sports.
  • The DRL’s season premiere is set for 8 PM EDT on the NBC Sports Network and on Twitter.

One of the most vivid lessons that the sports betting industry has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of keeping a full menu of options on the board. No longer are sportsbooks content to just offer the ‘major sports’ for obvious reasons–if live sports are shut down worldwide it becomes a huge problem. The first major breakout sport of the pandemic era was table tennis. It was one of the few events that continued to run in the early days of the pandemic and quickly become an important betting sport. It still maintains a strong following even with the major international sports back in business.

This is the perfect environment for what has to be described as a ‘niche sport’ like professional drone racing to find traction as both a spectator sport and betting event. The Drone Racing League (DRL) was founded in 2015 but has become a surprisingly serious organization during the pandemic. They first gained my notice in April 2020 when they signed a deal with FanDuel to serve as the ‘official fantasy sports partner’ for the Drone Racing League’s (DRL) 2020 DRL SIM Tryouts Finals. A quote from DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski on that occasion clearly illustrates that he was aware of the ‘writing on the wall’:

“At a time when fans want access to sports competition more than ever, we’re thrilled to live stream the 2020 DRL SIM Tryouts, a unique eSport that transforms gamers into pro drone pilots overnight, and reward fans with prizes through our exciting new partnership with FanDuel.”

The Drone Racing League Simulator is essentially a videogame adaptation of ‘physical’ drone racing. Here’s a video of the DRL SIM:

The digital version of the sport is equally as important as the ‘analog’. Here’s a blurb from the DRL official website:

As a futuristic sport that blurs the line between the virtual and the real, we race in legendary locations including iconic sports arenas, historic palaces and landmark museums around the globe.

another blurb from a section titled ‘What Is Drone Racing’ further conflates the physical with the virtual:

First Person View (FPV) drone racing is a competition where pilots control drones equipped with cameras while wearing goggles that stream the live video feed from the drones so they feel like they’re flying from inside the drone. The goal is to complete a complex race course as quickly as possible and ahead of the other pilots in the heat. Competitions are held in stadiums around the world and also with our pilots flying virtually in the DRL SIM, the true-to-life drone racing simulator.

This is the perfect realization of the concept I discussed during the early days of the pandemic–how virtual sports could become an integral part of the sports betting milieu:

This could get very interesting. In the near future, you might see leagues playing a ‘virtual’ season simultaneous to their ‘real’ season. The current hiatus of most sports worldwide will likely mean that bookmakers, players, teams and leagues will want a ‘hedge’ against that happening in the future. Hopefully, this isn’t something that we’ll have to deal with again anytime soon and if that’s the case the ‘virtual’ season can be a nice ancillary revenue stream for everyone concerned and a fun ‘alternate reality’ betting opportunity for handicappers.

If there is a shutdown of any type the ‘virtual’ games could continue even with the ‘real’ leagues on hiatus. This would keep at least some revenue streams coming in for everyone in the food chain. It wouldn’t take much to add even more revenue streams. In-game advertising (something that is already common in video games) is the most obvious way to further monetize the ‘virtual’ sport and possibly the most lucrative.

In October 2020, the DRL announced a partnership with betting data provider Genius Sports. The plan was to ‘accelerate DRL into the sports betting space’:

The Drone Racing League (DRL), the global, professional drone racing property, announced today a landmark partnership with Genius Sports Group, a global leader in sports data and technology, to accelerate DRL into the sports betting space.

The two elite technology brands will come together for a multi-year partnership to reimagine the gaming landscape, marking an initial step towards creating a first-ever, league-approved drone racing product in the United States. Their agreement will enable licensed sportsbooks to attract a new audience of highly engaged drone racing fans while providing an immersive DRL race experience.

And lookie here….this is the Colorado Division of Gaming sports betting catalog and right at the top of the approved motorsports competitions along with NASCAR and Formula 1 you’ll see the Drone Racing League:

You’ll see the Genius Sports logo on the DRL ‘sponsors’ page along with a number of extremely high profile companies like Twitter, TMobile, NBC and ESPN:

You’ll also see a company called Algorand and that brings us to the subject of this article. Algorand is a blockchain technologies company that has attracted plenty of interest from the industry and investors. A lot of very sharp people–myself included–think they could be an important player in the future of finance. You can read more about them at their website:


Here’s the condensed version:

Algorand is building the technology to power the Future of Finance (FutureFi), the convergence of traditional and decentralized models into a unified system that is inclusive, frictionless, and secure. Founded by Turing Award-winning cryptographer Silvio Micali, Algorand developed a blockchain infrastructure that offers the interoperability and capacity to handle the volume of transactions needed for defi, financial institutions and governments to smoothly transition into FutureFi. The technology of choice for more than 700 global organizations, Algorand is enabling the simple creation of next generation financial products, protocols and exchange of value. For more information, visit www.algorand.com. 

They’re also the newest partner of the Drone Racing League–here’s the scoop from one of the best written press releases I’ve seen:

Today, the Drone Racing League, the world’s premier professional drone racing property, and Algorand, the leading high performance blockchain platform, announced a long-term partnership that has no modern precedent in sports and entertainment. Recognized globally for cutting-edge technology, immersive sports entertainment, and thrilling, high-speed drone racing, DRL will bring to life next generation fan experiences on the Algorand blockchain.

Merging blockchain with drone racing is a bullseye for the league’s “tech-setter” fans, who are early adopters, open-minded to new forms of entertainment, and 40 times more likely to follow and engage with crypto social media than the general population. DRL will unveil blockchain-enabled ticketing, collectables, fan transactions and NFTs on Algorand, and welcome crypto developers, programmers and coders to Algorand hackathon events at DRL races around the world. 

Algorand and DRL are recognized as disruptive forces in their industries, pushing the limits of what is possible in sports and advanced technology. The companies share similar DNA – both have visionary founders, both revolutionize their industries with technology others have tried and failed to replicate, and both move at the speed of racing drones. Bringing scalable, fast, and decentralized gaming applications to DRL, Algorand’s blockchain will be the foundation for the sport of the future.

DRL President Rachel Jacobson gave the quote for her organization:

“The Drone Racing League’s global, tech-obsessed fans love that our sport constantly evolves, and blockchain was the next groundbreaking technology in our sights. Algorand shares our values of speed, innovation, and inclusivity. As the largest partnership in DRL’s history, we have ambitious plans to deliver a unique sports experience in the metaverse. We are incredibly excited about how this partnership will change the game for sports and tech fans and the blockchain community around the world.”

Steve Kokinos, CEO of Algorand, gave the quote for his company:

“Algorand and the Drone Racing League are the most technically advanced, disruptive and visionary organizations in blockchain and sports respectively. We are excited that DRL will leverage Algorand’s technology to create immersive in-game experiences and introduce millions of technology enthusiasts to the possibilities that blockchain can bring to racing and to sports as we know them today.”

More about the deal–if merging the virtual with the physical as described above is ‘playing chess’ putting it on the blockchain is ‘playing Mr. Spock Star Trek 3-D chess’:

Over the next five years, Algorand will have the Title rights of the DRL World Championship circuit, DRL will develop a Digital Drone Racing series built into Algorand’s blockchain network, and the companies will showcase the power of Algorand blockchain through DRL’s broadcast, social and gaming channels. Excel Sports Management’s Properties division helped secure the historic, multi-year deal. 

Keep an eye on this partnership. It could seriously change the paradigm of any number of industries–including sports betting.

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