Dubai, one of the most modern, glamorous cities in the world has emerged from the desert of the Persian Gulf in the last two decades like an oasis of fake grass and imported steel. An arid city that boasts the world’s largest indoor ski-slope and wave pool clearly has a deep respect for technology. So what better place to host a championship for the world’s most cutting edge sport?
The city of Dubai will host the first Drone Prix in March, less than a month away. Priding itself as a city from the future and not a city of the future, Dubai continually impresses the world with its latest technological advances and ambitious construction projects. The tallest hotels, the biggest (you name it) have all seemingly been planned, or were already built in Dubai.
The competition, directed by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, will be held on March 10th and 11th, 2016. This will be the largest ever drone competition of its kind, awarding a grand prize of one million dollars. Only the top teams who have qualified from each continent will be allowed to enter the race.
Each team must consist of five team members: a pilot, a navigator, a pit-stop technician, a primary technician and a team manager. The World Organization for Racing Drones, the committee created to establish the rules and guidelines for drone races, hopes to have at least 15 different teams competing for first, second and third place prizes. Like with auto racing, drones must have similar batteries and frames, in order to guarantee a fair competitive field. Since these types of competitions are a fairly recent invention, skill level and experience among pilots is a somewhat evenly distributed field as well.
Will the Dubai Grand Prix become the defacto World Championship for drone racing? Hard to say. The Dubai competition won’t be without competition of its own. There is another race hosted by World Drone Racing Championship in Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii starting on October 17-22, 2016. The October race is not governed by the World Organization for Racing Drones, so it will be interesting to see how these two agencies tackle the entertainment and spectator issues as the sport begins to mature.
From a TV broadcast standpoint, drone racing provides some interesting possibilities and challenges. The built-in cameras on every racing drone allow for an exciting vantage point, but watching these fast-moving, face-first feeds for any extended period of time might prove to be too much for the average viewer to take. Editors and cameramen haven’t yet had the years of experience and experimentation that other major sports already went through, as the TV networks learned how to make game broadcasts enjoyable to watch. Like Dubai itself, drone racing could turn out to be the next big thing, or the answer to a future trivia question about expensive failures. Here’s to watching!