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, 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 that occasionally reached up to pinch at the speeding aircraft for 12 laps. The skyscrapers of the Dubai Marina could be seen behind them.
 
The pilots wore the white racing jumpsuits familiar to Formula One auto racing. 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 of 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 that were flown resembled Erector Set creations. One team used a cheap disposable lighter to solder a wire. The races themselves looked at home in the science-fiction film "Tron" - glowing fluorescent lights guiding 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 to the shouts of spectators.
 
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 who 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 flying missions over Iraq and Syria that target the Islamic State group.
 
But the proliferation of hobbyist drone pilots has caused problems here and elsewhere in the world. Dubai International Airport is the world's busiest for international travel. It has seen drones fly into its airspace and halt its flights.
 
Since February, drone owners have been required to register with the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority. Authorities also ban 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," Saif Mohammed al-Suwaidi, the aviation authority's director-general, said in a statement at the time.
 
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, with sponsorships and advertising accounting 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, who was the manager of Bannister's team.
 
Those millions, as well as Dubai's determination to always be ahead, likely inspired authorities to announce the World Future Sports Games, 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 (9)
  • mayaw-6-bar
    3/21/2016 - 01:13 a.m.

    This contest might have an effect on the use of drones because this contest could have inspired people to buy drones, because they can win money. In this article, in paragraph 2, it states that,"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." This quote is telling us that if one person can win money, then so can others. Therefore, this contest could effect the use of drones, because more people would buy them, because they can win money. I liked this article because, I want to get a drone, and now I know more about the future of drones. I learned that a competition for technological sports is being created, which I think is really cool.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/22/2016 - 07:40 p.m.

    I think that it is cool how a team led by a 15-year-old pilot got first place on March 12 in the World Drone Prix. This is a contest and there will be prizes that are given. A person from the UAE (United Arab Emirates) said that there will be World Future Sports Games in 2017. Some of them will be robotic swimming, running, wrestling, and others like drone flying. I think that many people will be interested in this but I wonder how the effect will turn out to be if the robots replace people. There are many different types of technology that is developing so the outcome might not be certain.
    I think that this contest will affect the drones by having people learn how to control them and use them to prepare for the contests.

  • caitlynk-2-bar
    3/23/2016 - 06:34 p.m.

    This contest may have an effect on drones because as it is stated in the text, "Since February, drone owners have been required to register with the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority. Authorities also ban hobbyists from putting cameras or lasers on their drones." Because of this event drone users have more restrictions then they did before February. This article was interesting because it showed how mjch drones have developed and how people expect then to develop in the near future. This article surprised me because the article started out as an article about a fifteen year-old girl, and then turned into a story about drones.

  • averyd-ver
    3/28/2016 - 01:09 p.m.

    This contest will encourage people to start flying making more people open to the idea of drone delivery and other things that involve drones.

  • ellas-obr
    3/31/2016 - 01:06 p.m.

    The so-called eSports competition will definitely have an effect on drones and their use. The effect of this competition could turn out good or bad for the use of drones. The bad effect on the use of drones would possibly be because people see drones crash, which would make people scared to use them, thinking that while they are using them, they would crash. The good effect on the use of drones in effect to this competition could be that the news would spread through the world about how drones are athletic and can be used in things in the near future.

  • joey0111-byo
    3/31/2016 - 08:44 p.m.

    I think that the contest will "egg on" other people. It also might inspire new airplanes. People will start making many new inventions out of the idea of drones.

  • treyh-lew
    4/20/2016 - 12:13 p.m.

    This is interesting to know that he did this a such a young age.

  • connerd-lew
    4/20/2016 - 12:49 p.m.

    I think this is a good idea for a different kind of a race. I would definitaly want to partcipate in one of these races!

  • sbrei-wim4
    4/22/2016 - 12:44 p.m.

    I see this contested as a great way to give less athletic kids and teens a sport to call there own. Yet it would also be a sport for all to watch. I could also bring forth a new world of people.

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