01 Nov 2018

An air sport for all: “Drone racing makes me feel free!”

Italian pilot Luisa Rizzo’s life changed when her father bought her a drone “to help me move”, giving the 16-year-old wheelchair user from Lecce in Southern Italy a sense of freedom she had never felt before.

“I loved flying my drone, so I decided to try racing,” she said. “There are not many drone racing pilots in Italy, so I mainly trained alone. But I enjoyed it so much I trained every day.”

Rizzo qualified for the FAI World Drone Racing Championships, being held for the first time this year in the vibrant city of Shenzhen in China, by taking part in the Italian Championships.

"I am so excited to be here,” she said. “I will do my best but I have never flown such a big track so that will be a challenge. I am really proud to be here competing for Italy.”

She hopes more disabled people will take up drone racing as word spreads about how accessible it is as a sport. “Getting involved with drone racing has changed my life in lots of ways,” she added.

“Even though I can’t move, I can fly. It is something I would definitely say other disabled people should try because there are no limits. Drone racing makes me feel free!”

Rizzo is not the only pilot at the FAI World Drone Racing Championships with a disability. Isabel Vila Roura, competing on the Spanish team, has been deaf since birth.

Involved in drone racing for three years, her favourite thing about the sport is the speed. "I love being able to fly at speeds I have never experienced anywhere else," she said.

The Spanish pilot, 44, believes drone racing is a great sport for people with hearing impairments because it allows them to compete on a level playing field with other pilots.

“All I need is a helper to tap me on the shoulder when it is time to start, or if we need to stop,” she said.

“I can’t hear if something is wrong with the propellers, but that is not a problem as I can feel and see the vibrations as the drone flies."

Vila Roura, who is from Catalonia, is delighted to be here in Shenzhen representing Spain at the FAI World Drone Racing Championships.

“I am so happy,” she said. “It is one of the best experiences of my life and I am really looking forward to racing on the track here because it is so different to all the others I have tried.”

Photo credits: FAI/Marcus King

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