It’s now legal to bet on the Drone Racing League (DRL) via DraftKings Sportsbook and Fanduel app in five US states. The DRL features some of drone racing’s biggest and brightest stars.
Top DRL Racers in 2021
Christian “Amari” Val Sloun was classed as a “rookie” when he joined the DRL for the 2020 season. However, the US drone racing pro has a solid career behind him, with a win at the MultiGP North Central Regional Finals in 2018 in the can.
Amari bagged his spot in the 2020 league by winning the Tryouts on the league’s virtual course, the DRL SIM. It was the largest-ever open Tryouts yet held, and Amari made easy work of them by taking down 10 out of 10 heats in all.
So far in the 2020 season, Amari was regular odds-on favorite in most of his levels, with close competition from pros like Sky and Nubb.
Not many DRL pilots can boast three world championship titles. But not all DRL pilots are as solid as Brett “Collision” Collis.
Collision got involved in drones from a young age before discovering the world of racing via YouTube. Soon, he was constructing his first Quad drone and a career in drone racing took off from there.
The British racer is a triple world champion with the XBlades Racing team and also holds various European titles. Like other of DRL’s top talents such as Amari, Collision won 10 out of 10 heats in the DRL SIM Tryouts going into the 2020 season.
Swiss-born pro, Gabriel Kocher, who now lives in Canada, has a PhD in Material Science. Just the kind of skills required to construct new drones and judge the nuances of a drone racing course.
But Kocher has also been one of drone racing’s most formidable racers for the past three years. He finished runner-up to Jordan “Jet” Temkin in the 2017 World Championship, and nearly went one better a year later. Gab707 had a consistent 2019, just falling short at the World Championship when “Nubb” and “Vanover” took the honors.
In 2019, Kocher held the first ever drone flying contest between a human and a computer. Pitting his skills against an AI drone designed by Team MAVLab, Kocher won the race five seconds ahead of the computer.
Unlike some of his fellow pros who qualified through the Tryouts, Tennessee’s Evan “HeadsUp” Turner came to the DRL by winning multiple MultiGP National Championships.
In fact, HeadsUp won back-to-back MultiGPs in 2018 and 2019 in a league boasting over 30,000 pilots.
Taking his place in the DRL in 2020, HeadsUp became – at 17 years old – the youngest ever DRL pilot in the history of the sport. His blue drone has become an icon of the 2020 season.
Jordan “Jet” Temkin is one of drone racing’s biggest stars. He remains the only DRL pro to win two world championships, and he did it back-to-back.
First, he won DRL’s inaugural season in 2016 when there were five races in total. Jet fought off the challenge of 15 other pilots to win a $100,000 professional contract. By doing so, the Colorado native became the world’s first professional drone racer.
That win secured Jet’s place in the 2017 DRL season when courses were expanded to include London and Munich. The world championship was held in London and became the first even drone racing contest to feature online betting.
Jet triumphed against Swiss-Canadian Gabriel Kocher in the final heat to make it a stunning two in two.
Californian, Cory “Mewo” Ibanez, lives and breathes drone racing. So impassioned is he with drones he even secured his Masters degree from UC Santa Cruz with a major in racing drone dynamics.
Like a lot of DRL pro racers, Mewo has a solid raft of MultiGP results under his belt. In 2018 he led the national leaderboard following some impressive qualifier races.
Known as an aggressive competitor, Blake “Nubb” Sams is a regular favorite in the DRL betting. He’s only 26 years old but has racked up enough big wins in a career going back over three years.
Like fellow DRL pro, “HeadsUp”, Nubb is a keen adrenaline junkie, regularly posting videos of his extreme sports exploits. And in 2020, he took down a share of $1m in the GoPro Million Dollar Challenge.
Within the space of five years, Indiana’s Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala has gone from complete drone racing newbie to solid pro.
The software engineer only received his first drone as a Christmas present back in 2014. It sparked a love of drone flying that led to Nurk becoming a full pro.
The change worked out: he won the 2018 DRL Allianz World Champion, setting out his stall in his maiden finals with a win in the season’s first race.
Nurk went from strength to strength, demolishing the competition in the final event by beating two of the sport’s biggest names – Gab707 and Nubb.
Nurk had a solid 2019 too, with a win in level 2 of the league. However, he couldn’t keep up the consistency and lost out to Vanover for the overall season title.
Christopher “Phluxy” Spangler won the DRL Tryouts in 2019, holding off the challenge of 209 other hopefuls at the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas.
Phluxy’s reward was a spot as the Swatch drone pilot for the 2019 World Championship and a contract worth $75,000. In doing so, Phluxy became the first SIM drone pilot to make a podium of a professional race.
And Phluxy showed that his place in the DRL was well-earned. His made 5 finals in his first appearances, a first for a rookie pilot.
Denver professional, Timothy “Sky” Ichiyasu has been a regular in the Drone Racing League (DRL) for a few years. He has particularly made a name for himself in the virtual SIM Tryouts, competing every year since 2017. It’s no wonder, then, that he’s been one of the ones to watch in the DraftKings betting markets in 2021.
Like a lot of pilots, Sky got into the sport for the technical aspect and maintains his skills with long sessions on the DRL SIM platform.
And, like other US pros like Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala and Jake “Jaws” Schneider, Ichiyasu was one of Team Heart of America, formed from 11 of the country’s best pilots.
Timothy “TC” Trowbridge has been competing in drone races since 2016 but has over a decade of experience flying remote-controlled aircraft. By some way, TC was the rank outsider in the 2020 DRL and regularly came in as a +10000 chance in the bookmaker markets.
Despite his outsider ranking, TC has a raft of solid results behind him, helped by a skill for making quick starts. His skill for fast starts has helped him to a world record time for drag racing, a title he’s held since 2018.
Texan racer Alex Vanover became the DRL world champion in 2019 after securing enough wins toward the end of the season. Most impressively, it was Vanover’s first season as a pro drone racer.
But Vanover had built up to the event by taking down the MultiGP National Championship aged just 17. After a run of victories, he was picked up by the DHL DR1 Champions Series.
The young pro went on to win titles in Croatia and took down a World Championship with the FlightOne team. The run-good continued with a guest spot on the Korean Drone Racing Association team. He helped the team to a victory at the X-Fly World Team Championship in China in 2018.
It was in 2019 that he was signed to fly in the Drone Racing League as a rookie. And with 6 podium finishes, he managed to take down the title in style. Under pressure from “Nubb” in the level 5 heat, Vanover won level 6 to clinch the required points to win the season.