FAI Drone Racing World Championships: Day Three Review

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Shenzhen saw some incredible drone races today at the FAI Drone Racing World Championships in China – with race favorite Killian Rousseau (FRA) knocked out late in the evening, leaving the competition wide open.

The day started with the line-up of the 64 best drivers who had successfully completed the three previous qualifying heats.

Unlike qualifying, where drivers are scored on their lap times, each race in subsequent stages becomes a do-or-die knockout, only the top two of each out of four races advance to the next lap.

Over two hours and 16 high-level competitive races, broadcast live online via Tencent TV (China), YouTube and social networks, the 64 drivers tried their luck. By the time 6 p.m. arrived and the track began to light up with its 7,000m of multi-colored LEDs, those 64 pilots had been reduced to 32.

The ax cut hard in places: Vincent Delcommene (BEL), former FAI Drone Racing World Cup champion failed to pass; neither did the young French favorite Thomas Grout, who finished fourth in his race.

Among the women who made it through qualifying, Wanraya Wannapong, the 11-year-old from Thailand, finished second in her race and qualified for the next 16. GaYeon Mo (KOR) was also successful.

When the race resumed shortly after 6 p.m. local time, all eyes were on who would succeed. As the glasses came down, the tension mounted.

The first major shock of the evening came in the first race, when Killian Rousseau, the fastest driver in qualifying and winner of the FAI Drone World Cup this year, crashed after his first lap.

“Collisions are just one of the things that happen in competitions,” said the teenage French drone ace, clearly moved. “But I still had a great time here.”

Wanraya Wannapong fell in the same race, putting an end to her hopes as well. The Thai pilot won the China Drone Open at the same stadium in May this year, so he was tipped to go all the way.

Five races later, GaYeon Mo (KOR) also lost her race, meaning no woman will advance to the quarterfinals on Sunday.

The shocks followed in the penultimate race of the evening, when the Spaniard Vincent Mayans, a Junior, crashed in the worst possible way.

After a breathtaking flight show where he overtook other pilots to lead the race, he reached the last gate at full speed, sending his drone spinning to the ground and ripping off his hopes of victory at the last minute.

Australia’s Thomas Bitmatta fared better, qualifying for the next round after finishing second behind China’s Haihong Sha in an extremely tight competition, but told us anything can happen at an event like this.

“When it comes to lap times, I know I’m among the best of them, but there is so much that can come into play,” Bitmatta said. “I’ll give it my all, but it’ll be fun anyway. It’s a real honor to be here flying with everyone.

The final shock was left in the last race of the night, when Bill Schuette (USA), one of the fastest drivers in qualifying, didn’t finish, crashing after two laps.

The high adrenaline rush has meant the competition is still wide open as it enters its finals on Sunday. Sixteen drivers now qualify for the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final.

The livestream continues on Sunday, November 4, 2018 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. local time / 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. GMT.

Photo credits: FAI / Marcus King

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