Drone racing sure has gathered speed in a short space of time. For evidence of that, look no further than a new cashed up competition out of Dubai, a place that doesn’t really do things by halves. Set to take place this coming weekend, the World Drone Prix will play host to pilots from all around the globe battling for US$1 million in cash prizes.
Not too long ago, drone racing was an underground hobby practiced by drone owners in abandoned warehouses, empty carparks and remote forests. On the back of a highly addictive virtual reality experience where users stream vision from high-speed racing drones to a set of first-person-view goggles, the sport is now very much planting a foot in the professional realm.
In the last year alone we’ve seen the inaugural US Drone Racing National Championship event, the launch of an F1-like Drone Racing League series and now, what organizers claim to be the largest drone racing event in the world.
What’s a little bit different about the World Drone Prix is that it’s open to pilots from all across the globe, who can submit “American Idol” type qualification videos meeting certain guidelines to gain entry to the competition. This breaks down geographical and financial barriers and has led to a field of 150 competing teams from around the world.
Following a round of qualifying, numbers will be reduced to 32 teams who will battle it out in the knockout-style main event on March 11 and 12. The organizers also claim that the 591 m (646 yd) aerial course, which tempts more ambitious pilots with several Mario Kart-like shortcuts, is the first custom-built track designed specifically with drone racing in mind.
The purse will be spread out across several categories, with prize money on offer for the best track team, best lap time, best freestyle team, most innovative drone and crowd favorite, based on spectator votes. The organizers say that the event has attracted interest from a number of cities and countries, and that it is currently assessing its options for the location of next year’s event.
You can check out the events promo video below.
Dr. Hans Mumm