We ask: is Drone racing a real sport?

Future talks to Luke Bannister, Drone Racing World Champion and Ambassador for Spin Master. 

Catapulted into the limelight when he won the World Drone Prix in Dubai in March 2016, 17 year old Luke Bannister from Somerset now combines his studies with racing drones all around the world as part of the NEXXblades Racing Team. World champion Luke is also now an ambassador for leading global children’s entertainment company Spin Master, whose new Air Hogs DR1 FPV (First Person View) Race Drone is being tipped as a top toy for Christmas!

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What is Drone Racing?

Drone racing is a hobby for adrenaline seekers (like me!) who enjoy
flying radio-controlled aircrafts or quadcopters, testing our skills against other competitors from all over the world. In the last few years I’ve moved into ‘First Person View’ remote control flight. A video camera mounted on the front of the aircraft sends a video feed to goggles worn by the pilot, who is then able to control his aircraft using a conventional radio transmitter. It gives you real time simulation – the hair–raising, awesome sensation of sitting in the cockpit of your FPV drone as it races through the air navigating three-dimensional obstacle courses at speeds of up to 80mph!

How did it come about?

I believe drone racing started in France as an amateur sport about three years ago and because it allows wannabe race drivers to learn to race like a pro from their own home, it quickly became a popular hobby all over the world. 

When did you have the initial idea to get involved?

I was 10 years old when I was given a mini polystyrene remote control plane that I learnt to fly indoors. I quickly moved onto larger planes and wings. At the age of 14 I discovered FPV and got my first pair of goggles for my 14th birthday. Six months later I had saved up enough pocket money to buy my first quadcopter and haven’t looked back since. I absolutely love FPV flight – the sense of freedom it gives me, the opportunity to explore spaces, the exhilaration and excitement
of racing.

In 2016 my most notable wins were the World Drone Prix in Dubai, the Drone Champions League, DR1 Invitational in Los Angeles, the Spanish Nationals, EuroCup and the UK Nationals. I recently won the Shanghai Mobile World Congress Indoor Races competing against an international spectrum of top drone pilots, which was awesome.

Not long ago I was proud to be asked to act as an ambassador for entertainment company Spin Master. The brand is creating great opportunities for young people to discover the sport with its Air Hogs DR1 Micro Race Drone and DR1 FPV Race Drone – helping make drone racing accessible for all. 

Is it a real sport?

Drone racing has moved from being an enthusiasts’ hobby to a televised international sport within only three years. You can watch me and my NEXXBlades Racing teammates racing DR1 later in the year on FoxSports, Eurosports and CBS. It will be awesome.

How much does the sport cost to get involved?

For anyone who wants to take the
first step into flying and drone racing then the Air Hogs DR1 Micro Drone for around £40 or the DR1 FPV Race Drone for £99 are the perfect place to start. It’s so easy to set up your own mini race courses at home and there’s lots of fun to be had!

What obstacles have you faced?

Right now I’m facing my biggest obstacle – A Levels! I have had to cut down my drone racing activities this year in order to keep up with my studies.

What’s the best bit of what you do? (There may be more than one...)

Experiencing an FPV flight is the most incredible feeling – it’s literally like having an ‘out of body’ experience.

As well as the huge international races, I also love attending local events and flying for fun, spending time with like- minded people.

But most of all I love the FPV international community – everyone is so supportive of one another. My internet mates on different continents are now my friends. 

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What’s the hardest part of what you do?

At the moment it’s simply juggling the commitment of the international races with my school life. But I’ve been lucky to have my mother supporting me from the beginning... in fact she’s now earned the nickname ‘FPV Mum’!

What advice would you offer to anyone thinking of doing something similar to you?

To go for it 100%!! It’s a stimulating pastime that gets you out of doors, interacting socially, away from hours of indoor gaming, learning about electronics and developing useful technical skills! What could beat that?!

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to make a career in the world of flight and the skills acquired through this hobby provide an open door to fantastic flight-related opportunities worldwide. I’m really excited for the future.

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Any advice for budding drone racers?

Allow yourself to be light headed! Have your head in the skies – find space and freedom ...The sky’s limitless ... your 3D playground! 


Fancy WINNING your own drone? 

Sport, CareersEmily Baulf