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World Drone Prix

The World Drone Prix was the biggest drone race of its kind, bringing together the best pilots of the world to go head-to-head and push the drone industry to innovate and improve. The World Drone Prix had a total prize of $1 million, making it the largest such event in the world.

* Produced in collaboration with G12 Hub

The 1 Million Dollar, World Drone Prix Finals

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World Drone Prix Dubai - Highlights 1

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World Drone Prix Dubai - Case Study

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As the dust settles on Dubai’s World Drone Prix, the first truly global drone-racing event, it’s one of the youngest pilots on the scene who walks away with the top prize. 15-year-old Luke Bannister, flying for the UK-based Tornado X-Blades team, out-performed 150 global teams here in Dubai to become the first World Drone Prix champion, netting a cool $250,000 (£175,000) in the process.

The event, held on Dubai’s Gulf coast, saw 150 pilots battle through the week for just 32 spots in the finals, which were held last Friday and Saturday on a custom-built, outdoor track. "Luke was always a threat," says Australian pilot Chad Nowak who won a major tournament in Sacramento, USA, last year and flies for Rotor Riot here in Dubai. "He’s so fast, and doesn’t have the fear or the nerves that the older pilots can have," he says.

Nowak lost out to Bannister in an exciting semi-final race, where four evenly matched pilots jostled for position throughout. Pushed to their limit, three of the four pilots eventually crashed, leaving Bannister the only pilot holding his nerve to complete the course. Despite losing, Nowak wasn’t too upset. "That was a great race," he enthused afterwards. "It felt like we were really pushing the limit of what each other could do, and the crowd were responding, too. They were loving it. I was loving it," he says.

Dubai is one of the first drone-racing events to really cater for spectators. Held at night to maximise the visual appeal, the purpose-built track was spectacularly lit and the drones’ LEDs were set to one of four colours, making it much easier to follow the action on-track. Spectators could watch a multi-camera view on big screens, too, or even watch through one of the many first-person-view (FPV) goggles placed around the track for a truly immersive, pilots-eye perspective.

And, if that wasn’t enough, commentary was provided by top pilots such as Nowak and Steele Davis to help introduce the pilots, explain the intricacies of the sport, and give perspective on some of the tactical decisions being made by the teams.

The races themselves, designed around a technical track configuration, were quite different from a normal race. "Normally drone races are flat-out sprints, but here it comes down to those with the best tactics," says Nowak. "This event has so many variables to consider: battery power, pit changes, track routes and setups," adds Luke Bannister.

Bannister’s final race was more straightforward, although not easy—these were the best of the best, after all. Up against Dubai’s own DroneTek, Russia’s VS Meshcheriakov and Netherland’s Drone Race Team SQG, Bannister led from early on and dominated for much of the race. Even after losing track position following pit changes, he was able to quickly catch and overtake the competition, often in places that others might not dare. Bannister was having so much fun, it seems, that he forgot to stop at the end of the race and continued onto his 13th lap, causing much confusion in the pit lane.

Luke was ecstatic with his win. "It’s crazy, amazing, I’d like to thank my whole team," he blurted, prompting another round of cheering and chanting from his Tornado X-Blades crew, proud of their gifted helmsman. What are you looking forward to now? I ask him. "Flying in a nice, quiet open field," he says, possibly overwhelmed by the sheer scale and enthusiasm for the event. *

* Ars Technica


The Collective

Nemanja Babić
Andrija Kovač
Vladimir Miladinović
Marija Kovačina

2021 / 01  

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