Dil-Dominé Jacobe Leonares is the founder of Dcrypt, a startup focused on ‘future sports’ which connects brands with athletes across these new sports to create content across social, live streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality.
We spoke to Dil about the link up between drone racing and esports, how FPV racing will continue to become more accessible, the Dcrypt XDR event in LA this summer and how augmented reality can add a whole new layer to FPV.
Third Law: Can you tell us about your place in FPV and how you got into it?
Dil: Dcrypt – Xtreme Drone Racing is the F1 meets X-Games of FPV drone racing. We recognize the amazing work that the Drone Racing League has done to bring FPV drone racing to the world through video-on-demand content online. I’m taking what I learned during my time with the X-Games to bring that format of action sports events to the FPV drone market.
I’ve been more of a spectator over the past year but growing up I use to fly remote controlled helicopters. I bought my first remote controlled helicopter from a garage sale when I was 10 and when I first flew it, the helicopter chopped off the heads of my mums rose garden – she wasn’t too happy!
I always wanted an easier way to fly and dreamt of quadcopters before they were a consumer reality. A few years later, DJI came into the scene making it easy for consumers to get off the ground and fly. Soon we’ll see the same thing happen with FPV racing drones becoming more accessible to everyday consumers. I love how FPV racing allows anyone who’s dreamt of flying to do so and it’s a sport giving people who wouldn’t typically be considered athletes a chance to participate.
Third Law: You’re organising the Dcrypt Xtreme Drone Racing event which’ll take place in Los Angeles, June 14th – 16th, 2016. Why this location? Is the LA FPV scene one you’re involved in?
Dil: I’d consider myself a newcomer when it comes to the LA FPV scene as I’ve been traveling around the world over the past few years. But I’d have to say the FPV community is very welcoming whether it be in LA or around the world. It reminds me of the beginnings of esports when video gamers use to compete against each other for bragging rights and maybe even each other’s packed lunch. I’m looking forward to being more active with the FPV community moving forward both here in SoCal but also on the international stage.
Part of the challenge right now with FPV drone racing is that the mainstream audience is nascent, with spectators having yet to truly understand or experience what it’s like to spectate a drone race. By attaching our events with a more mainstream tech-friendly audience, we can get overflow from these events to grow awareness of individuals who would find FPV drone racing exciting.
Third Law: You’ve partnered with Trappy and Team Blacksheep for the event. How did you go about signing these partnerships and are there anymore in the pipeline?
Dil: We want to make sure that partners we bring on board match our brand’s core values and the community we are looking to build around it. Trappy and Team BlackSheep have proven to bring polished content and high-quality products to the FPV market. I’ve always admired Trappy and was inspired by him to get into FPV drone space, thus I’m honored to have him onboard.
What’s great is that key figures in the FPV community want to see it grow past a hobby, so I approach them with my plans to bring FPV drone racing to the mainstream. So far the industry has been open and willing to participate. We’re are currently talking with endemic brands within the FPV drone industry but we are also engaged in conversations with non-endemic brands to authentically integrate them into our events.
Third Law: With esports another key remit of Dcrypt, what have you found are the crossovers between esports and drone racing?
Dil: I believe that esports and drone racing have a lot in common when it comes to growth within the sports entertainment industry. Right now, with drone racing we are seeing teams form around brands but I believe in the near future, we will see more teams form into their own brand just like the LA Lakers, SF 49ers or even the Miami Dolphins. I think gamers will enjoy the adrenaline you get when wearing FPV goggles and are used to having a controller in their hands.
With the recent World Drone Prix in Dubai – we saw the potential to have large cash prizes be part of events. Currently, FPV drone pilots are experiencing the same challenges esports players and teams have had in the past, in regards to financial support, so they could focus on their skills rather than worrying about working a 9-5 job for the paycheck. I’m taking key learnings from our influencer development background to help drone pilots build up their own brand and turn their passion for FPV drone racing into a paid professional career by bringing in non-endemic brands into the space.
The rise of esports in the last few years has demonstrated the overwhelming demand for technology-based competition that I call ‘Future Sports’. This new era is ushering in the evolution of sports entertainment with athletes that have grown up with both video games and traditional sports in their lives. Even some traditional sports are starting to plateau or even start to be on the way out – Mark Cuban has been quoted as saying “I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion”. If we look at changes happening in sports entertainment media, John Skipper of ESPN was initially against broadcasting or covering esports events but now with the launch of a esports division within ESPN the birds are singing a different tune. Our hope is to also bring FPV drone racing to spectators at home through a potential broadcast and OTT distribution deal we have in the works.
FPV drone racing is right now the fastest growing motorsport in the world and has also been able to capitalize on the growth of esports which was previously considered a fringe sport. With the stigma of video games shifting to become mainstream, we will see the same thing happen with FPV drones in the next year or so.
Third Law: You’ve produced some merchandise for pilots ahead of the Dcrypt Xtreme Drone Racing event this summer. How important is this in legitimizing the sport?
Dil: Any strong lifestyle brand has two components at its core: product and content.
While traditional sport brands have jerseys and merchandise that fans use to show support, esports has suffered from tacky jerseys looking like you just got off your dirt bike. We want to change that perception by bringing merch that you could wear on any normal day, whether it be outside flying your FPV drone or grabbing a bite to eat.
My very first bootstrapped startup back in 2004 was a high-end men’s clothing line where we produced limited run printed tees and hoodies. I’ve always enjoyed designing lifestyle apparel and have done so for various clients over the past few years.
Third Law: You’re also involved in augmented reality and virtual reality which clearly have the capacity to be positively integrated with drone racing. In what ways could this be achieved?
Dil: With FPV drone racing, there is so much data that is out there and as a community we are not currently capturing that data either as research to improve product or to better ourselves as FPV drone pilots.
I’m currently looking at how we can inject augmented reality to improve the FPV drone racing experience from the perspective of both the pilots and the spectating audience.
Virtual reality also lends its emerging technology to the FPV drone industry as we capture amazing high definition video while flying our drones using small action-sports cameras such as the GoPro. With the recent launch of the Oculus Rift and soon to be released HTC Vive, we will see greater need for engaging content that transports people into new and exotic locations around the world. I’ve always dreamt of flying in the sky by kicking off the ground as a little kid. Piloting an FPV drone allows me to live that dream today, but imagine having the ability to control where you are looking while viewing the content using a virtual reality headset. We can all now get a sense of what it’s like to be Superman without leaving the comfort of our homes.
Third Law: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the remainder of 2016 for Dcrypt? The event will take up some time, but is there anything else you’ve got in the works…
Dil: We’ve got a lot to do in regards to our upcoming event, but it’s starting to take shape with the help of our partners and the team behind Dcrypt. Right now, we have 4 events planned for 2016 with a possible national tour between the events. Our goal is to have the winner(s) of our XDR events work with our team and brand partners to release their own spec’d out ready to fly consumer FPV racer by 2017.
At this point, the skies the limit but we’ve very focused to creating an Xtreme Drone Racing event that pushes the boundaries and skills of the FPV drone racing community.