The top team in this year’s inaugural World Drone Prix season will take home $250,000, organizers announced today – part of the largest prize pool in drone racing history.
The total purse for the new UAE-based competition is close to $1 million, with second-place finishers in the track race event pocketing $125,000, and a top prize of $50,000 for competitors in the alternative freestyle event.
Teams with vim and vigor could grab an audience-chosen “Best Team” award for $100,000.
The World Drone Prix, announced late in 2015 and slated to open with a live-streamed event in Dubai next month, is backed by United Arab Emirates officials and U.S.-based partner organizations Aerial Grand Prix and the International Drone Racing Association, all collaborating as the World Organization for Racing Drones.
As part of a broader push diversify its federated emirates’ economies, the UAE has dedicated significant money to supporting the development of drones in industry and sport, including sponsoring a “Drones for Good” competition this year awarded a $1 million prize to a team which built a drone which can both fly and dive underwater.
Organizers have set aside some prize money to support local FPV clubs: the first-place UAE team will earn $50,000, and the next two-highest ranking each get $25,000, according to WORD.
Despite – or perhaps because of – its history-making purse, the competition is facing some criticism over its rushed planning. Pilot applications closed February 20 and competitors are still waiting for confirmation on logistics and technical specifications, fewer than two weeks before they would need to arrive in Dubai with their quads for several pre-events leading up to the first official race on March 11.
The organization says a team list is “planned to come out in the next 3 days.”
But $1 million buys a lot of enthusiasm: organizers say about 500 pilots applied to race.