Drone Racing League Gains FAA Accreditation

The DRL becomes the first unmanned aircraft systems event organizer and joins FAA’s Partnership for Safety Plan Program.

A DRL Racer4 drone races in the DRL World Championship. Courtesy: Drone Racing League

The Drone Racing League (DRL) announced this week that it has earned FAA accreditation and will become the first unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) event organizer.

“We look forward to sharing our expertise in drone-event safety more widely with the industry and continuing to work with venue organizers to curate safe and spectacular drone racing experiences through the most unique and incredible spaces,” DRL CEO Ashley Ellefson said in a statement. 

Additionally, the DRL will join the FAA’s Partnership for Safety Plan (PSP) program, an initiative by the FAA to support the further safe integration of burgeoning drone technology and services. The FAA launched the PSP initiative in December 2016 to address and advance complex UAS operational capabilities. 

The program establishes a working relationship between the FAA and industry to help facilitate the full integration of UAS into the national airspace system (NAS). 

The DRL will help the PSP to outline safety protocols for drone operators, especially those in public spaces like UAS demonstrations, air shows, exhibitions, and live events.

The League’s Hot Streak

The DRL has been on a tear lately, securing deals with:

The league also announced in October that the championship event for its 2021-22 season will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas during the widely popular Consumer Electronics Show trade show in early January.

Last summer, it tapped Rachel Jacobson, a former senior vice president for the National Basketball Association, to be the league’s new president.

The DRL also has a broadcast deal with NBC .

The DRL says its championship event will showcase its safety measures, including the ability to suspend drones mid-flight, safety netting, and course closures designed to keep non-participants out, especially during races. 

DRL and the FAA

The DRL will become the seventh member of the PSP, joining partners like Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime Air, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway (NYSE: BRK.B), Florida Power & Light (NYSE: NEE), and Wing, the drone delivery arm of Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL)

The FAA hopes to use the PSP Program to provide a framework for collaboration for unmanned scenarios that have a lot of complexities. It then hopes to use this insight from its partners to support its rulemaking and standards development activities.

For its part, the DRL says that it will be a vocal advocate for drone safety on behalf of the FAA, speaking on panels to promote national drone rules and encourage the drone industry.

In 2016, DRL worked with The White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) to develop, standardize, and share safety protocols with the drone racing community.  It also joined the Commercial Drone Alliance, a wider trade organization advocating for drone commerce.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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