Santa Rosa man to compete on ESPN's 'Drone Racing League'

Santa Rosa resident Emmanuel "UFO" Mota will take his drone around the world, racing against the best of the best in the new season of ESPN's "Drone Racing League," starting Sept. 6.

The 32-year-old photographer came to the attention of show producers after coming in second out of thousands of competitors in an simulated racing competition in New York's Times Square in February.

The next week, while making dinner with his wife, Miranda, he got a call offering him a spot on the show and a paid contract, changing, he said, the course of his life.

“That turned me into a professional racer," he said.

Drone racing is done with a controller and goggles that are connected to a camera on the front of the drone, so to racers, it seems like they are in the cockpit of the drone.

In the show, 18 pilots fly identical custom-built drones in races around the world, from a soccer stadium in France to Biosphere 2 in Arizona, gaining points along the way. The pilot with the highest total number of points is crowned the "World Champion" and wins $100,000.

A longtime car and motorcycle racer, Mota was inspired to pick up a controller competitively in 2016 after watching videos of drone megastar "Charpu," who has more than 85,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

“I was an adrenaline junkie. This was something I could do every day for that, without risking life and limb,” said Mota.

The League's CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski said he saw a change in Mota over the course of the 14-episode season. "It's been incredible to watch Mota go from gamer to pro pilot overnight."

Watch the Season 3 trailer here:

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