Culture

15-Year-Old Drone Racer Nets $250k Prize

Dubai has always been a little nuts, as most of us know. They love to take things to the extreme, and so it isn’t surprising to find that they’ve just concluded hosting the inaugural World Drone Prix. What may be slightly surprising is that the prize pot on offer was a whopping US$1Million, with a full US$250,000 going to the winner. That’s a hell of a lot of money, and it’s just been claimed by a 15 year-old. Luke Bannister, a native of Somerset, led Tornado X-Blades Banni UK to victory, edging out homegrown Dubai Dronetek.

Participants in the race needed to complete 12 laps of an intricate, tightly-winding course, flying through neon loops at regular intervals, much like slalom gates in skiing. Pilots watch through VR headsets as their drones whizz around the track, and you can view first-person video of the winning race below, assuming you aren’t prone to motion sickness.

I could only watch one lap, personally

Many have compared drone racing to competitive video gaming or eSports, which is slowly establishing itself as a new, modern sport. eSports revenue was nearly US$750 million worldwide in 2015, with sponsorships and other marketing deals worth US$578. Drone Racing appears to be following a smiliar trajectory.

With the Drone Prix, Dubai hopes to establish itself as a hub of Drone Racing. The website of the event states that a “thrilling competition will unfold in front of a local audience, and the entire planet, marking the official birth of the sport of the future.”