JEDDAH: The seventh and final event of the Drone Racing League, organized by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), was a hit with the audience at King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah on Friday.
Participants wore head-mounted devices that show live footage from the camera attached to their drones, which they fly across a course of obstacles as fast as possible.
The final participants come from a range of countries including Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and France. They are among the best drone racers in the field.
Many talented Saudis participated and put up a tough fight. Adulhadi Azooz, a 36-year-old participant, told Arab News: “I started flying drones in 2013. Before that, I was into flying RC (remote controlled) helicopters. I was a fan of people creating things on YouTube. So that’s how I discovered drones. DRL is one of a kind, so I can say that it is my first time participating in such a championship but I have done some local races before.”
Another young participant, Motaz Al-Jafri, a 22-year-old drone pilot, told Arab News: “I have always wanted to be a pilot, so drones were the closest that I could get to flying without getting in the cockpit. Drones give you the feeling of actually flying a plane, because of that I got interested and went to study in the field of aeronautical engineering.”
“We would like to thank the federation for giving us this opportunity because of all the people who are interested in the RC devices.”
He also said that he was interested in RC drifting before he got into drones. “Drones are way faster than the RC cars and a bit more dangerous because the propellors of the drones are spinning really fast so they might hurt someone who is not doing it well.”
Drone Racing League CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski said that the sport of drone racing started in 2010. “It was actually first competed in Australia, and it spread around the world. The Drone Racing League is the first professional league for the sport; we started in 2015, and this is our third season.”
He explained the differences between drone racing and car racing. “One of the biggest differences for drone racing is that it’s fully three-dimensional. So tonight the drones will be racing up the sides of buildings, they will be turning in the air, so unlike car racing which is in two dimensions, this is in full three-dimensions. The other difference is the drones have almost instantaneous acceleration, they go from zero to a 130 an hour in less than a second. So it’s a sport of high-speed acceleration.”
Horbaczewski applauded the federation for their efforts in spreading awareness of the sport. “It has been amazing, we are here partially because our series is broadcasted on OSN and we have fans here who reached out, saying: “Come to Saudi Arabia, bring a live race.”
And then we met the Cyber Federation, which is spreading awareness and education about drones, so it’s the perfect partnership; our fans are excited, the country is excited, we’re excited. It’s a great setup.”
“We could not have done this without our partnership with the Cyber Federation. They have been an incredible partner to us, they are truly passionate and committed to spreading education and awareness about drones. We not only have this incredible event here tonight, we did an educational session with students. We taught them how to build drones, boys and girls built their own drones, they learned about science, technology, so they’re spreading drone sport, drone education, drone awareness. I’m very impressed with the cyber federation’s dedication to drones in Saudi Arabia.”