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First-ever World Drone Prix wraps up with $250,000 win for Brit teen

A team of drone racers led by a 15-year-old Brit blew away more than 30 rivals in the first ever World Drone Prix in Dubai over the weekend, securing the winners a tasty $250,000 prize in the process.

The contest tested pilots’ skills in handling high-speed quadcopters, with competitors required to navigate a neon-lit course made up of multiple tight turns and other obstacles such as hoops dotted along the track.

Teen Luke Bannister (pictured) from Somerset in south-west England shares the cash prize with his team, Tornado X-Blades Banni UK.luke bannister

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Competitors navigated the track wearing goggles showing a live video feed from their camera-equipped flying machine as it hurtled around the course.

Judging by first-person videos posted on YouTube, the “Terror Tower” appeared to be one of the trickier parts of the challenge, a section that forced pilots to make a sudden elevation before navigating a hoop and continuing on.

During the 12-lap races of the 600-meter track, all pilots had to take on the twisting “Joker Lane” at least once, and also had to make quick decisions about whether to use optional shortcuts. Occasional pitstops were necessary, too, so the drones could undergo speedy battery swaps.

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Prize money for the event totaled $1 million, with other winners picking up awards for fastest lap, finishing second, and best freestyle performances.

The World Drone Prix is the brainchild of several Dubai-based groups with an interest in the technology, with the event set to be hosted by other cities around the world throughout this year.

At the weekend’s award ceremony, the United Arab Emirates government also announced plans for next year’s inaugural World Future Sports Games that’ll see robots battling it out in swimming, running, wrestling, and car racing events. By then, we’re assuming the competing bots will be a bit more reliable than those that bit the dust in hilarious fashion during DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Finals last year.