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First-person drone racing descends upon Wembley Stadium

Yesterday evening, April 13, a swarm of drones descended upon Wembley Stadium in London. The pilots, who controlled their drones using first-person-view (FPV) headsets, were challenged with slaloms through the players’ tunnel, bank turns around the corner flags, and barrel rolls above the royal box.

Organised by EE, chip maker Qualcomm, and the European Rotor Sports Association (ERSA), the event was "a chance to celebrate the recent success of Europe’s leading pilots," EE wrote in a press release. Luke Bannister, the UK teen who recently won the $250K grand prize at the Dubai World Drone Prix, was at the event to show everyone how it's done.

The event, however, must have looked a bit strange, since the stadium was completely empty except for a bunch of journalists protected from drones flying at 75mph (120km/h) by a net. Presumably the safety measures could've been extended to squeeze more spectators in—but they wouldn't have been able to see much, anyway.

"As the tiny drones whizzed past me last night it was almost impossible to spot them, let alone work out who was winning," the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones wrote in his report.

The few spectators were able to watch the action through FPV headsets like those worn by pilots, or on a tablet, with real-time footage provided by some 4G EE action cameras that were strapped to the drones.

Qualcomm was also directly involved in the event: the racing drones were built on its Snapdragon Flight platform, a 58x40mm board optimised for use in UAVs.

In related news, the US-based sports TV network ESPN recently announced a partnership with the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) to stream drone races online and use the footage in edited TV segments.

If you want to find out more about FPV drone racing, we published an in-depth explainer last year.

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