By Bunmi Adigun @Bunmi_Adigun
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Videographer / director: Paddy Hughes
Producer: Bunmi Adigun, Nick Johnson
Editor: Lawrence Baraclough
WEMBLEY stadium played host as the European Rotor Sports Association flew in to the English capital.
Clocking up speeds of 75mph, the drones buzzed around the iconic venue and further proved why the sport of drone racing is gaining in popularity.
The racing was live streamed to spectators for the first time over EE’s 4G network at the stadium, with 4G cameras attached to the drones in a world-first - bring fans closer to the action.
At the heart of the action and the new face of the sport was British 16-year-old drone whiz kid Luke Bannister, from Somerset, who has just recently come back from winning the Drone Grand Prix in Dubai, where he bagged himself £174k in prize money.
Starting off with basic polystyrene planes, the teenager took his skills further by mastering the art of flying race drones.
He said: “I started off flying remote control planes indoors and then I found a local club where they taught me how to fly these bigger planes and it progressed from there.”
Luke soon got more confident in his abilities and invested in a pair of First Person View (FPV) goggles. FPVs are an important piece of equipment for any aspiring drone racers as it gives the pilot the point-of-view of their drone.
He said: “Two years ago I got my first set of goggles with an FPV set-up, which has a camera and a video transmitter and then started putting them in my planes flying them around.”
Drone racing is often compared to computer-gaming due to the use of a control pad - used to control the drone - and the use of FPV goggles, which look like a virtual reality headset.
Luke said: “It looks similar but there’s so many different aspects to drone racing. You have to know how to build, solder, tune. There's a lot more to it than just picking up a controller and doing it.”
As a relative newcomer to the sport of drone racing, Luke has built a following online with his YouTube channel, Banni UK, which boasts more than 100,000 views.
His online following got the attention of Tornado X Blades, a British-based team of race drone pilots who invited him to join the team and sponsored his trip to Dubai.
The addition of Luke helped to cement the team as one of the premiere teams in the world when he won in Dubai.
The growth of drone racing is thought to be down to its accessibility, as people of all ages can buy a drone and start racing.
Luke’s mother Karen Bannister said: “It’s a brilliant sport for your kids to get involved in because they can learn so much.
"It will take them outside, away from all the screens, the Playstation, the X-Box, and it’s totally different to gaming indoors because you socialise, you meet a community of people, you learn electronics, you learn technical skills, you learn engineering, you learn about aeronautical design, so there is so much.
Karen also thinks it encourages fair play.
“It’s the only sport I’m aware of that you can go to a competitive event and your competitor racing in the same race as you says ‘I’ve got a problem with my video or something’s missing, do you have a spare?’,” she said.
"If you’ve got a spare you give it to them. Everybody helps out.”
The freestyle drone racing event was brought to Wembley by stadium partner EE, who used it as a chance to showcase their superfast 4G network. 4G-enabled cameras were attached to drones to live stream the footage back to fans of the sport watching in the stands.
EE CEO Marc Allera said: “This event is only possible thanks to our unique partnership with Wembley stadium.
"Our 4G network here is the best in the world, offering unprecedented speeds perfect for drone racing, which relies on superfast connectivity.
"This event is a world first – with our 4G Action Cams attached to the drones, live streaming direct to fans for the first time, we are helping to bring spectators closer than ever to this exciting new sport.”