Coming this October: India’s first drone racing league

Anand Murali August 11, 2016 3 min

Imagine flying around in a Tron like world with neon light streaks and markers all around. Your field of view, like that of a rebel pilot in Star Wars whizzing through the action. This is kind of what it feels like to be a pilot in a drone race.

This sort of action is coming to India soon. Mumbai based entrepreneur Karan Kamdar who runs a startup called 1 Martian Way is setting up India’s first drone racing league.

The league, christened The Indian Drone Racing League (IDRL) is planning to stage their first race in October during the Amalthea fest at IIT-Gandhinagar. Kamdar’s 1 Martian Way operates industrial drones for companies.

Drone racing is really new to India. There are many freelance drone pilots in India who make a living out of flying drones but most of them don’t have a place to showcase their skills or push the boundaries of drone flying. Moreover, they are spread across the country and meet each-other through small localised events and meetups.

Karan Kamdar with an industrial drone
Karan Kamdar with an industrial drone

Races are pretty much out of the question due to the regulation on drones. “The primary intention of IDRL is to bring together drone pilots across India, who currently don’t have a common platform to showcase their talent, given the regulations in the country”, says Kamdar.

Karan wants to spread awareness about drone racing in India. Unlike some racing leagues which are only open to ace pilots, IDRL wants to open up the sport to enthusiasts and amateur pilots. They eventually aim to take the race nationwide.

A pilot setting up a racing drone
A pilot setting up a racing drone

The IDRL community, which currently has over 20 registered pilots and is steadily growing, keeps in touch mainly through a WhatsApp group.

The October race will take place over two days. Pilots will race each other on the first day and the second day will be mostly about introducing the concept of drone racing to students.

There’s much interest in drones but there’s also a lot of ambiguity around drone regulations in India. As we wrote earlier, buying a drone in India can also land you in trouble with customs and most people buy drones from grey markets. To help with this Karan has engaged a lawyer and is also seeking permission from local authorities to conduct the event.

Drones used for racing
Drones used for racing

“The drones involved in drone racing typically weigh not more than 500 grams all loaded, this is well below the DGCA regulation of 1 Kg. Most of the events will be held indoors and if required we will get outdoors permission from the local authorities”, says Karan.

Karan hopes that instead of drone enthusiasts racing at unregulated places, IDRL will act as a regulated platform for these pilots to race. He adds, “This should also let everyone know, including the government, that this is a harmless sport.”

IDRL is also in talks with Droneworlds, a popular international drone racing league, to conduct the Indian leg of the World Drone Championships. The recent Dubai World Drone Prix saw the winner walk away with $250,000 prizemoney not long after the race video went viral on YouTube.