FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM)

11 May 2018

China Launches Three Days of Top-Level Drone Competition

The 2018 China Drone Racing Open kicked-off in style today with an opening ceremony that welcomed drone pilots from Asia and beyond to the city of Shenzhen in China, the heart of the drone world.

Seventy-one pilots converged on the 30,000-capacity Universiade Shenzhen stadium in Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong, to start racing in the Qualification rounds of the three-day competition. 

“We have more than 70 competitors from six countries,” said Bruno Delor, President of the FAI Jury at the competition. “We are ready to fly.”

Pilots from South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, France and Portugal have joined 45 Chinese drone racing pilots to compete.

In drone racing competitors race each other around a set track, flying their drone at up to 130km/h through a series of gates. Each drone carries a camera, which pilots view through first-person view goggles. The result is the pilot is put "in the cockpit” of the drone – an immersive experience that is exhilarating, exciting and at times nerve-wracking.

Qualification rounds are followed by a series of heats, with pilots slowly being eliminated until a final head-to-head race reveals the winner.

The competition is part of the international FAI Drone Racing World Cup series, and is also acting as a test event for the 1st FAI World Drone Racing Championship, being held in Shenzhen in November this year. Shenzhen is the heart of the drone world and home to around 20 major drone manufacturers.

Expectations are high for a top-level event. Delor said: “It’s a World Cup event, which means a good competition.The second thing we expect is to do a complete test event before the World Drone Racing Championship at the end of this year. 

“The World Championships will be here, in the same place. So we are very close to the conditions we can expect at the World Championships.”

Competition will be fierce among the Chinese pilots as well as the visitors. France's 16-year-old Thomas Grout, who was third in the FAI Drone Racing World Cup series in 2017, said: “I will do my best, and I hope to finish in the best position I can, but there are a lot of good pilots."

And 15-year-old Sungju Park from Korea said he was looking forward to the competition. “Korea is the best!” he said, on behalf of his teammates.

The competition in China features 30 junior pilots, those under the age of 18. And despite their young age the Juniors stand as much chance of winning as anyone.

“The sport tends to favour young people,” explained FAI Jury Member David Roberts. “Many of them have quick reactions, trained from computer gaming, and they practise a lot.

“What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing which young pilots come through in this competition – discovering new pilots and new talent. It’s going to be fun.”