USAF Extends Drone Racing League Partnership

The renewal comes in concert with the Air Force’s 75th anniversary theme to ‘Innovate, Accelerate, and Thrive.’

The deal calls for, among other things, co-branded broadcast integration. [Courtesy: Drone Racing League]

The Drone Racing League (DRL) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) have renewed and expanded their ongoing partnership ahead of the Air Force's 75th Anniversary theme to "Innovate, Accelerate, and Thrive." 

"The partnership is designed to accelerate the skills of drone pilots around the world and recruit the next generation of innovators into the U.S. Air Force," the league said in a statement.

The Air Force has a high demand for new airmen and -women—including pilots of both crewed aircraft and drones—and plans to hire more than 26,000 recruits in 2022. The service is emphasizing recruiting people with no prior military service into one of more than 130 career opportunities. With the global drone market expected to blossom into a $58 billion industry by 2026, this partnership serves as a helpful on-ramp for USAF drone pilots.

"As the nation pays tribute to military members this month, we are thrilled to extend our partnership with the U.S. Air Force as they celebrate their 75th Anniversary," said DRL president Rachel Jacobson.

Measure of Success

The league says there's a significant overlap between DRL and the USAF. It says that compared to the general population, DRL's U.S.-based fans on social media are 23 times more likely to follow the U.S. Air Force, and 33 times more likely to follow U.S. military accounts across the board.

It's a two-sided affair, the league says, when it comes to engagement. DRL says nearly one in five of its fans have reported serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces [including army vet and DRL pilot Phluxy.

"We have a young, global fanbase that follows the U.S. Air Force and loves to discover new career opportunities within technology, innovation, and aviation through our sport. We're excited to take our partnership to the next level and empower the next generation of pilots to serve our country," Jacobson said in the announcement.

Expanded Partnership

This year, the league will launch new programming during Military Appreciation Month, leading into the U.S. Air Force's 75th anniversary in September, which coincides with the 2022-23 DRL Algorand World Championship season. 

The partners will unveil new immersive gaming pilot spotlights throughout the season. Other elements of the partnership include:

  • Co-branded broadcast integration
  • A digital series aimed to teach aspiring FPV (first person view) drone pilots how to fly
  • U.S. Air Force Boneyard maps and drone skins in “DRL SIM,” the league's racing game and simulator.

"For the past 75 years, the spirit of innovation has driven the U.S. Air Force and enabled our airmen to Fly, Fight, and Win," said Lt. Col. Jason Wyche, the chief of the national events branch at Air Force Recruiting Service, in a statement. "As we celebrate our historic milestone, we are proud to expand our partnership with the Drone Racing League, a sport that shares our passion around technology, speed, and precision and inspires their young fans to aim high."

In 2021, the USAF and DRL unveiled their FPV 101 Series, featuring 50 video tutorials that immerse drone fans into the world of FPV flight and educate them on basic maneuvers of drone navigation.

Fans can watch the league on NBC. and Twitter. 


The league is also making a concerted effort to recruit more female pilots. Using its #WomenTakingOff series, it spotlights women in aviation and tech who have made history. Some of the women featured include Mélanie Astles, an air-racing team owner and the only female in history to win a major racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Additionally, it has featured Elena Buenrostro, the founder of Women Who Drone, and drone pilot Luiza Rizzo. This Saturday, on National Armed Forces Day, the DRL will honor Catherine "Lilo" Armandie, lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Air Force.

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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