Drone racing has rocketed in popularity over the last year, but Dubai’s World Drone Prix is one of the biggest events yet, with a prize pool of $1 million.
Organized by the World Organization of Racing Drones, the World Drone Prix was hosted for the first time this year in Dubai. The organization and racing event chose Dubai, claiming online that it was the “first city in the world to embrace drone technology to serve humanity.”
Not all that long ago drone racing was little more than a recreational hobby, where custom quadcopter owners would meet up at clandestine locations and pit their machines against one another in a frenetic blend of virtual reality and remote-controlled racing. The pilots don VR goggles, which stream vision from the nose of the drone as it zips through pylons and trees, making for an immersive and thrilling experience that seems to be winning over hordes of new participants every day.
Although the sport of drone racing is still largely unknown, tight-knit communities of dedicated enthusiasts are popping up around the world with amateur leagues forming in France, England, the US and Australia. Pilots typically fly custom-built quadcopters through warehouses, empty shopping mall carparks or remote outdoor locations, some as fast as 100 mph (160 km/h).
China is also in on the game with over seven-fold increase in camera drone shipments over the next three years as the devices gain wider usage.
We are going to see different types of drone racing events as the sport moves through its formative stages and 2016 looks set to be a huge year for drone racing. The Dubai World Drone Prix was undoubtedly spectacular, but the US and UK are both planning to scale up their operations this year with the Drone Racing League and the British FPV Racing Association. The next major event is probably the World Drone Racing Championships, which will be held in Hawaii in October.
With such a fast growing market and interest, drone racing is poised to become the futuristic game of the 21st century and potentially a major mainstream sport of the technological era.