A team led by a British teenager has taken won the £174,000 first prize at a major drone racing event in Dubai.
Luke Bannister’s Tornado X-Blades Banni UK took the biggest share of a near-$1m prize pot after beating Russian and Dutch competition in the final race round 12 laps of a Tron-esque glowing 591-metre track.
The races, lasting around 10 minutes, saw pilots wearing goggles linked up to a feed from their drones as they zipped round a course that had Dubai marina’s skyscrapers as a spectacular backdrop.
Racers had to take at least one pit stop per race so crews could change batteries, while pilots had to decide whether to take risky short cuts – sometimes resulting in spectacular 30mph mid-air collisions.
After his win, the Somerset 15-year-old wrote on Facebook: “We won! Thanks to everyone on this awesome trip!!”
The competition has been compared to video-gaming – making it part of a growing eSports movement with revenue of nearly £522m worldwide in 2015, according to US-based gaming research firm SuperData.
“Obviously, there’s a crossover with gaming, as you can see with the HD goggles,” said Nigel Tomlinson, manager of Luke’s team.
Luke’s prize is expected to be shared by 43 members of his extended team.
Dubai authorities used the event to announce the World Future Sports Games, pencilled in for December 2017.
As well as drone racing, the games next year will include robotic swimming, running, wrestling and car racing.