FPV pilots hoping to make it to next month’s Dubai qualifier for the World Drone Prix flew in the first U.S. pre-event today near Los Angeles.
Pilots zipped through the neon-themed indoor track in Burbank, California, in a registration-only event billed as a “meet-and-greet”. Rather than compete directly against each other today, racers and freestylists recorded their performance on organizer-provided micro SD cards. World Drone Prix judges will assess these alongside video submissions from the next meet-and-greets in Germany and Japan, as well as online submissions from drone racers world-wide, to decide who will make it into the Dubai qualifer.
75 pilots turned out today in Burbank, according to Organizers.
The event was hosted by Aerial Grand Prix, a racing league launched in 2014, and the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA). Both are co-founders of the World Grand Prix and its organizing body, the World Organization of Racing Drones.
Video from IDRA.
Details remain thin about the World Drone Prix, which was announced late in 2015 and opens with a live-streamed qualifier on March 11 in Dubai, but it has the backing of United Arab Emirates officialdom – the head of its organizing body also works for the office of the prime minister – and promises $1 million in total prize money.
Applications to compete are open to any FPV pilot who can put together a five-person team and line up a company or private group to act as sponsor. 32 teams will be selected after the February 15th deadline to compete in the Dubai opener, which will include two ongoing competition types: freestyle and racetrack.
“The track will be more advanced than anything seen so far,” Omar Al-Olama, secretary-general of organizing body World Organisation of Racing Drones, told Mumbai-based newspaper DNA India. The capabilities judges are looking for in competitors’ submission videos indicate the basic maneuvers it will require: racers will need to make ninety and one-hundred-and-eighty degree turns, manage vertical drops or rises of ten meters, and thread obstacles no wider than three meters.
The World Drone Prix season will last through 2016.
The UAE, which has sought to diversify its federated emirates’ mostly oil-driven economies, is boosting the unmanned aircraft systems industry with supportive policies and events. Its first “Drones for Good” competition closed today by awarding a $1 million prize to a team which built a drone which can both fly and dive underwater. Its friendly stance could make the country, and critical hub city Dubai in particular, a strong – and needed – home for FPV racing.
“Drones can be a hostile subject in many places and many people are still afraid of them for whatever reason,” said Johnny Schaer, an FPV pilot originally from Chicago who now flies for Drone Worx Dubai, a club and shop for FPV drone enthusiasts in the region. “With the announcement of the World Drone Prix people are getting excited about this amazing technology and I can see Dubai becoming one of the top FPV locations in the world.”
The World Drone Prix is just the latest high-profile FPV racing league to grab fans’ and racers’ attention. Last month the new Drone Racing League announced it has secured millions of dollars in financing to implement its ambitions of bringing the sport into the mainstream.