Today drone enthusiasts around the world can watch the final of the first ever Drone Racing League race, “Level 1: Miami Lights”. The 3-stage race was made up of a qualifying round, semi-final and final, and with some precision flying and ice-cool performances, Steve “Zoomas” Zoumas came out on top.
Watch the final below…
The winding course through the Miami Dolphins’ stadium is easily one of the most complex racecourses ever built outside of a video game, and although 12 elite drone pilots from around the world took part, many struggled to complete laps under pressure, colliding with gates and walls, and generally finding the track pretty tough going.
So how did Steve Zoumas come out on top? From the outside, his incredible ability to start quickly, get ahead of the competition and keep the nerves at bay looked to be the key. I spoke with him after the race to get his take on it.
“A big part of me succeeding was that I was able to control my nerves,” he said. “I know I’m a good pilot, and I hope to be one of the best eventually, but I feel that I’m able to control my nerves in a big environment.”
The DRL format means that as well as racing drones side by side, the pilots have to sit elbow to elbow as they compete, too. That’s gotta be pretty intense, even for experienced racers?
“I’ve raced against a couple of these guys before and we’ll battle it out in every turn – we’re pretty even. But as far as the nerves go, there were guys I was sitting next to and you look over and their hands are trembling while they’re flying.” Not ideal when the slightest of twitches can send your drone crashing out of the race.
Part of the pressure must come from the sheer spectacle the pilots are involved in. The track put together in Miami couldn’t be further removed from where many drones pilots start out.
“All the courses I raced on before were smaller, just using plastic gates and flags. DRL has really stepped up the game; it’s like nothing else course-wise” said Steve.
So how did it all start for Steve, who runs a construction company, JNS Contracting, with his brother in Wading River, NY? He told me, “I’ve always been into speed and looking for that adrenaline. I saw a video of some guys flying through the woods, did a little research and ordered some goggles and a drone. Now I’ve got a garage full of drones and it’s a way of life.”
DRL is a sports, media and technology company looking to tap into the growing popularity of drones by combining world-class pilots with technology developed to create exciting races and appeal to the masses. The scale and ambition is pretty clear, but where does Steve see the future going?
“We’re hobbyists and we’re just starting out, but once the public see it and it starts catching on, I think DRL is going to be the next big thing. I’m obviously crossing my fingers for that.”
I think we all are too. DRL’s growing fan base will be happy to hear that race organizers have promised to keep pushing the boundaries of course design and test pilot skills aggressively in upcoming races. Zoomas will be the favorite heading into the second meet of the DRL season, “Level 2: LApocalypse,” to be held in Los Angeles, CA at the abandoned Hawthorne Mall later this month.