From top drone pilot to Top Gun: USAF expands Drone Racing League partnership for recruits

It’s a pretty interesting partnership, and it’s already been going on four years. Now, the United States Air Force and the Drone Racing League have announced they’re expanding the work they’re doing together, which is ultimately aimed at finding USAF recruits.

It’s a pretty interesting tie-in. And, you’ve gotta admit, it makes sense. First-Person-View pilots tend to like things that fly. And, as they become better and better pilots, they develop the kind of reflexes that one could reasonably assume would translate well to the cockpit. And so, with four years of working together already accomplished, the two organizations have announced that not only will the relationship continue – it will expand.

Let’s see what’s up.


We’re guessing you’ve heard of the Drone Racing League by now. It features both virtual and real competitions featuring some of the best FPV pilots on the planet. Here’s how DRL describes itself on its website:

DRL is the global, professional drone racing property for elite pilots. With custom built racing drones traveling 90 MPH, pilots race through the most insane courses across virtual and physical competitions. Merging the digital with the real, DRL delivers innovative drone technology, immersive content, and visually thrilling races on the best sports networks around the world, including NBC, NBC Sports, Twitter, Sky Sports, and Weibo.

And, well, we’re guessing you know about the US Air Force. It also attracts people who like things that fly, except we’re talking about machines much larger and faster than drones.

A strategic alliance

Drone pilots might not only have some reflexes and building skills that could come in handy with a USAF position: They’re also, says a DRL news release, more inclined to be interested.

A cross-branded graphic features the USAF “Aim High” slogan and a DRL drone…

The release states DRL fans as “23x more likely to follow the U.S. Air Force compared to the general U.S. population…” And Maj. Jason Wyche, Chief of National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service, is pretty clear in spelling out the benefits of the partnership:

The U.S. Air Force is the world’s greatest air power, and we need the best and brightest Airmen on our team to fly, fight and win. Working with the Drone Racing League is critical to boosting our recruiting pool, reaching millions of young fans, who include top drone pilots, engineers and technologists, and we’re excited to continue our partnership with this innovative league.


Some of the new shared initiatives started popping up on Twitter today, with Episode One of a new U.S. Air Force/DRL FPV 101 series. Today’s release is the first of 50 videos that will be rolled out during the year:

That’s pretty slick marketing, and highly focused on the target audience. DRL president Rachel Jacobson sees the partnership as a perfect fit:

The Drone Racing League reaches a coveted audience of Gen Z, tech-savvy sports fans who love discovering new career opportunities in technology, innovation and aviation. Our partnership with the U.S. Air Force will inspire our fans to aim high, learn to fly drones and experience the immersive thrill of high-speed drone racing.

DRL simulator gets onboard

The Drone Racing League’s simulator is even getting more involved with the cross-branding. Here’s what the news release says about that:

The game includes a newly released Night Mode version of the (US Air Force) Boneyard map, where players can fly through a deserted airport in the dark, featuring jet engines, blimps and branded gates along a long runway as obstacles. The day-time version of the Boneyard map hosted the highest-viewed 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season race, which saw 20 million fans tune-in on Twitter alone.

DRL SIM players will also discover some new options for building USAF-branded drones.

So… if you’ve checked out that first video in the FPV 101 series, stand by for 49 more of them. And if you’re already totally immersed in the thrill that comes from flying First Person Drones… well, there just might be a USAF career in your future.

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