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A 15-year-old British pilot led his team to victory in the inaugural World Drone Prix in Dubai. The event was organized by the World Organization of Racing Drone and was hosted for the first time this year in Dubai. The organizers selected Dubai because it is the first city to embrace drone technology to serve humanity. Luke Bannister piloted his team’s drone through a seven-kilometer-high speed race in the Dubai’s Marina in which the drones had to pass through a checkpoint on an outdoor track. Bannister finished the race in about 10 minutes winning $250,000 ((£174,000) as the first position price.
Bannister working closely with his team, the Tornado XBlades managed to out competed 150 other teams including Homegrown crew Dubai Dronetek, who took the second place. The World Drone Prix had a total prize of $1 million including runner-up prize, the best team, and fastest lap award among others. Luke’s prize was the highest single paid prize and will be shared by 43 members of the extended team.Bannister took up the sport around two years ago and has already won the first-person race in UK Drone Show in 2015.
Drone racing has skyrocketed in popularity over the last year though Dubai’s World Prix is the largest event yet with around 2,000 people coming to witness teams battling. The competition has been compared to video-gaming making it be part of a growing esports movement with revenues of nearly £522m worldwide in 2015, according to research firm SuperData. Each race lasts for about 10 minutes with a pilot maneuvering the drone through the use goggles that are linked up to a real-time video feed from a camera on the drone.
Unlike bike or car racing where the drivers’ movements are restricted to the surface of the track, drone pilots can navigate them over, around or even under their opponent. Just like how a quadcopter can turn 360 degrees, pilots can perform complicated maneuver around the 3D aerial circuit at a speed of over 90mph.Taking shortcuts at times can be tricky since they can easily result in spectacular mid-air collisions. During the race, drones have to make at least make one pit stop to allow the crews to change the batteries in their drone.
Saif Mohammed Al-Suwaidi, director-general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, noted that drone racing is not a mere flying game but a sport that requires accuracy and mental focus to enable the user to harmonize mental commands and hand movement to fly their drone successfully. At the event, UAE’s Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Mohammed Al-Gergawi, announced the introduction of the World Future Sports Games in December 2017. The games will include robotic running, swimming, wrestling, drone racing and car racing.
Drones are quickly becoming part of an everyday part of modern life. They are currently being used in filming and various industries though fears are growing that they could be used for spying and inference with aircrafts. Authorities have been forced to look at possible ways of controlling them.
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