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Who will become the first official Swiss Champion of the Swiss Drone League?

For over two years, pilots have been captivating audiences by skilfully flying drones at speeds of up to 160 km/h around obstacles along tight race courses. The 2020 season of the Swiss Drone League has big plans: the Swiss Champion will be officially crowned for the first time. It had long been unclear as to what would happen because of the coronavirus. Now this year’s first competitions are just around the corner.

4 August 2020, text: Mirjam Arnold, photos and video: Helvetia/SDL

Drones fly around the logo of Helvetia.

Drone racing is a mixture of e-sports, virtual reality and physical racing. A camera transmitting a live feed is installed on each quadcopter (drone). The pilots receive images in real time from the drone «cockpit» and use them to steer the drones through the obstacle course. To date, around 110,000 spectators have watched the race via the live stream. Another 110,000 tuned in on their TVs, while 145,000 spectators followed the race action live on site. There is no shortage of excitement as there are plenty of crashes during «Formula E of the skies» – up to 300 in one race weekend. It’s hardly surprising, as pilots steer their drones around obstacles at speeds of up to 160 km/h to get the best lap time.

Swiss Drone League

The Swiss Drone League (SDL) is still relatively young. Founded in autumn 2018, this year marks the first time that a Swiss Champion will be officially chosen on behalf of the AeroClub and Swiss Model Flying Association. This means the Swiss Drone League is making history as the first official national league in Europe. «We are proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time together with and for the pilots, sponsors, partners and public», says Joris Zahnd, co-founder of the SDL. A total of 40 pilots, both male and female and aged between 13 and 53, will take part in the SDL races and battle for ultimate victory.

Live stream or live on site

Those who know nothing about e-sports will enjoy an exciting introduction to experiencing drones live thanks to the additional physical racing component and other attractions on site. The competitions will take place at trade fairs and as individual events. There are fun tracks where visitors can pilot drones themselves, simulators to try out, and the opportunity to enjoy the racing perspective of top pilots with «taxi fly-alongs». You will get an exciting and versatile insight into the world of drones at the events. Visiting the events is usually free (except for events within trade fairs that charge entry fees). At the same time, the pilots are given a platform on which they can present the sport to a broader public, find personal sponsorship and prepare themselves optimally for international competitions.

What is fascinating is the flying itself, the speeds achieved and the technology required – areas that always arouse curiosity.

Time to take to the skies again

Unfortunately, the first two race weekends of 2020 had to be cancelled owing to the spread of the coronavirus. However, the first competitions of the season are now expected to take place on 22 and 23 August 2020 in Lucerne. Additional races are planned in Solothurn, Bern and Zurich. At each event, the pilots are awarded points that count towards the overall ranking. The three most successful pilots, as well as the best junior pilot, will take part in this year’s World Drone Racing Championship as official representatives of Switzerland.

Swiss Drone League and Helvetia

As the main sponsor, Helvetia is supporting the Swiss Drone League as this new sport combines physical and digital aspects in a very special way. For the insurance company, it’s an initial approach to e-sports, which also fit the strategy: the focus is on digitization and agility. At the same time, the events offer major added value for customers. «The opportunities for interaction inspire young and old alike, whether it's flying a drone yourself or taking on the pilot's perspective through glasses», says Simon Hort, Head Commitments and Sponsorship at Helvetia.