A 15-year-old Aussie has been crowned World Drone Racing Champion after four days of competition at an event organized by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).
Rudi Browning finished top among 127 other drone racers from 34 countries, with victory in the final race securing him a $24,000 cash prize.
Browning told the FAI it felt “absolutely amazing” to finish as champion at the inaugural event in Shenzhen, China on Sunday, adding, “I dreamed of this, and it’s incredible that it’s come true. I couldn’t be happier.”
Huge crashes, high speeds, and incredible performances: The #WDRC2018 had them all!
— FAI (@airsports_fai) November 4, 2018
Drone racing tests competitors’ skill at handling high-speed quadcopters, piloting them around a neon-lit course with numerous tight turns and a slew of obstacles such as hoops and gates placed along the way.
A racer navigates the course using goggles that stream a live video feed from their camera-equipped drone as they guide it around the track at speeds as fast as 100 mph. And you can forget about using the kind of obstacle avoidance technology that comes with many of today’s consumer quadcopters — drone racing is all about raw piloting skills that require intense concentration and precise control. One tiny error and it’s game over.
The course in Shenzhen covered a distance of 650 meters and was lit up by 7,000 meters of LED lights, creating an entertaining spectacle for the 10,000-strong stadium crowd who could enjoy the live feeds on big screens as the competitors sent their drones hurtling around the track.
After taking the top prize on Sunday, Browning described himself as “a very competitive person and I aim high,” adding, “The goal was to win everything I could. A lot of luck comes into it, as well as skill, so everything came together and I am super happy.”
The competition was streamed live online and also broadcast on TV to audiences across China. The FAI’s first World Drone Racing Championships was designed to throw a spotlight on some of the world’s best drone racers in a sport that’s gradually gaining global recognition.