Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP) – South Korean drone pilot Choi Joon-weon topped the Drone Racing World Cup leaderboard Sunday as his aerial device zipped past the competition in the season-opener on Indonesia’s tourist island Bali.
Choi beat Indonesian Axel Mario who took second place while another Korean pilot Rhee Jun-whi came third.
It was the first of 24 events in the third annual World Cup, which sees participants race sporting drones that weigh under one kilogram (2.2 pounds) and have at least three power-driven propellers.
Choi fought off competition from 47 other pilots from nine countries in a series of races held at the Niti Mandala Renon Park in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, from Friday to Sunday.
“I was quite nervous competing with international pilots. This is my best achievement,” Mario said.
The opening leg of the World Cup, run by the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI), was the first international air sports event hosted by Indonesia, and there were few spectators.
But organising committee chairman Asha Wadya Saelan was upbeat, saying Indonesia is ready to host more international air sports.
“Bali is a tourist magnet so the pilots can have a nice holiday here besides racing,” he said, adding that the youngest pilot competing in Bali was 10 years old while the oldest was 60.
Usually considered the preserve of hobbyists, drone racing is aiming to go mainstream and is “one of the fastest growing air sports in the world”, FAI President Frits Brink said in a statement.
There were 16 events in last year’s World Cup and nine in 2016.
A total of 435 pilots from 37 countries participated in 2017, which saw Switzerland’s Dario Neuenschwander crowned champion.
Shenzhen in China is due to stage the second event on May 11-13 while Prilep in Macedonia will host the finals on October 13-14.
Germany, France, Slovakia, Portugal, South Korea, Brazil, Finland, Bulgaria and Spain are among the 19 countries due to host World Cup races this year.