Teen wins world's first World Drone Prix Luke Bannister of Somerset, a 15 year old British pilot of Bannister’s team, Tornado X-Blades Banni UK, takes part at the World Drone Prix in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Teen wins world's first World Drone Prix
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A team led by a 15-year-old pilot from England took first place March 12 in the World Drone Prix. It is a new contest that hopes to take flight both in the Mideast country of the United Arab Emirates and with sports fans worldwide.
 
Luke Bannister of Somerset led Tornado X-Blades Banni UK to win a $250,000 purse. The money was part of $1 million in prizes handed out in the inaugural edition of this race. Meanwhile, a UAE Cabinet-level minister announced the start of the World Future Sports Games in December 2017.
 
Those contests next year will include robotic swimming, running, wrestling and car racing. And, of course, drone flying.
 
"We are trying to bring the future closer to us," said Mohammed al-Gergawi. He is the United Arab Emirates' minister for Cabinet affairs.
 
At the World Drone Prix in Dubai, four pilots at a time sat in racing-style seats. Their eyes were covered by goggles. The goggles allowed them to watch a feed from a camera on their drone. The drones raced on a course behind them. They zipped along a white track. It occasionally reached up to pinch at the speeding aircraft for 12 laps with the skyscrapers of the Dubai Marina behind them.
 
The pilots wore the white racing jumpsuits. Their attire was similar to Formula One auto racing. Drone racers have to worry about what's above and below them as they fly their drones, said Zachry Thayer. He is a 25-year-old pilot for Team Big Whoop. The team is from Fort Collins, Colorado. The onboard camera puts a racer into the action like nothing else, he said.
 
"That's what's making it explode," Thayer said. "Anybody can go out and all of a sudden, they're Superman,"
 
The crafts flown resembled Erector Set creations. One team used a cheap disposable lighter to solder a wire. Glowing fluorescent lights guided the way around the 650-yard track.
 
Racers had to take at least one pit stop in the race. Their crews leaned down to change out batteries. Pilots also had to decide whether to take short cuts. Sometimes they saw their drones crash into the ground or into each other.
 
Dubai was once a sleepy desert port city. Now it is home to the world's tallest building and the long-haul airline Emirates. The city has embraced drones. Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has given the $1 million Drones for Good Award over the last two years.
 
Government agencies across the larger United Arab Emirates, eager to be seen using new technology, use drones. Their activities are as varied as inspecting buildings to calming a frantic Abu Dhabi window-washer in 2014. The worker was caught 10 stories up. His scaffolding had gotten stuck. Small hobby drones for sale sit on display in electronics stores in the country's many luxury malls. And Al-Dhafra Air Base hosts some of the U.S. military's unmanned aircraft. They fly missions over Iraq and Syria that target the Islamic State group.
 
The abundance of hobbyist drone pilots also has caused problems. Dubai International Airport is the world's busiest for international travel. It has seen drones fly into its airspace. The airport had to halt its flights.
 
Since February, drone owners have been required to register with the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority. Officials have banned hobbyists from putting cameras or lasers on their drones.
 
"It is not merely a flying game. (It's) a sport that requires mental focus and accuracy to enable users to harmonize mental commands and hand movements to fly their drone," said Saif Mohammed al-Suwaidi in a statement. He is the aviation authority's director-general.
 
That focus, as well as having competitors fly an aircraft they're not actually in, makes many compare the sport to that of competitive video game playing. Already, so-called eSports revenue was nearly $750 million worldwide in 2015. Sponsorships and advertising accounted for $578 million. That is according to the New York-based gaming-research firm SuperData.
 
"Obviously, there's a crossover with gaming, as you can see with the HD goggles," said Nigel Tomlinson of Manchester, United Kingdom. He was the manager of Luke Bannister's team.
 
Those millions, as well as Dubai's single-minded determination to always be ahead, likely inspired authorities to announce the World Future Sports Games. They are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 28-30, 2017. Officials hope to hold the games once every two years after that.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How might this contest have an effect on use of drones?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (58)
  • williamb-4-bar
    3/21/2016 - 11:57 a.m.

    This contest can show us how useful drones can be.

    • cammeronm2-hei
      3/23/2016 - 03:36 p.m.

      Yes it will. Great thinking!

  • michaelf-kut
    3/21/2016 - 04:18 p.m.

    I think this contest will make people buy more drones. People will think "There's this contest, I should buy a drone so I can practice and hopefully win." People will be drawn to this contest because there's no risk of self harm, and it's competitive. I love being competitive, and so do most of the people I know. My other reason is that there is no risk of self harm. Most people I know stay away from sports like football because "I don't want to get hurt." But in drone racing, the only thing that could get hurt are the drones. I think these two things will make people buy more drones, and more people will use them.

    • coreyh-hei
      3/23/2016 - 10:50 a.m.

      that is good because you gave supporting details atnd text evidence.

    • aliyahd-hei
      3/23/2016 - 12:21 p.m.

      I agree because it is all about wining these days and that's what people have there mind set to when they see stuff like that.

  • davidc-dal
    3/21/2016 - 06:14 p.m.

    This might have an effect by people driving their drones near planes which might cause explosions.

  • kalif-hol
    3/21/2016 - 09:41 p.m.

    The boy in this article to so much people and that includes me. For one he is the pilot of a drone and there are many responsibilities for it. It said there was a 25 year old pilot for a drone and her is this 15 year old. He is inspiring young teens and teens to go for what you believe in.

  • karliw-1-bar
    3/21/2016 - 10:21 p.m.

    The World Drone Prix may have an affect on the use of drones because drones may be recognized as a more important piece of technology, especially since the world we live in is advancing in the field of modern innovations everyday. This will undoubtly make drones more popular and more useful for more professional reasons, like monitoring the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
    "We are trying to bring the future closer to us," said Mohammed al-Gergawi, the United Arab Emirates' minister for Cabinet affairs. And with the future becoming more visible everyday, change is bound to happen. But, change can be good or bad ; it's all just a matter of opinion.

  • jahir-orv
    3/21/2016 - 10:59 p.m.

    People now might actually see the use in drones

  • william1108-yyca
    3/22/2016 - 03:28 p.m.

    WOW! A drone race sounds very exciting. I wish that I could do that. But also it is sort of dangerous to have a drone. You might go to a military place and maybe spy on them. So it is a good thing that they are not allowed to have lasers and cameras. And also they should put their names on them. So maybe I will do drone racing one day if there is such thing.

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