Guest Post: By ANTHONY JOSEPH FOR MAILONLINE
A British schoolboy, 16, who practices flying in his local park juggles lessons with life as the world's best drone pilot after winning the top $250,000 prize at a prestigious race in Dubai
- Luke Bannister, 16, from Ramsbury in Wiltshire, won World Drone Prix in Dubai
- Still at school, Luke lives an unusual daily life, dividing his free time between practice, competitions, working on his drones - and homework from teachers
- He is cultivating a presence on social media and maintains a YouTube channel
- And while the drone sport is expanding, Luke remains focused on his studies
A British schoolboy has revealed how he juggles lessons after scooping up $252,000 and becoming the world's best drone pilot. Luke Bannister, 16, from Ramsbury in Wiltshire, won the glitzy World Drone Prix in Dubai last March.
Still at school, Luke lives an unusual daily life, dividing his free time between practice, competitions, working on his drones - and homework. He is cultivating a presence on social media and maintains a YouTube channel where he shows off his aerobatic skills.
But there is also schoolwork to be done, something this lively, ambitious teenager is careful not to neglect. He said: 'I want to enjoy myself, have fun with my friends, mess around, have some good racing, and fly to the best of my ability.
"I want to enjoy myself, have fun with my friends, mess around, have some good racing, and fly to the best of my ability. I have to balance my schoolwork and my drone racing. I spend the majority of my time on schoolwork to get the best possible marks" he said.
Luke first got into aerial acrobatics at the age of 10, using a radio-controlled polystyrene biplane. Then, at 11, he became the darling of his local model aircraft club, where he built his own planes and became their youngest pilot. A few years later, he discovered the joys of First Person View (FPV) racing.
But it is an expensive hobby. Each drone typically costs around $375 with the headset another $440. Luke insists it's a worthwhile experience when he gets his gear on.
"It's like you're a bird. When you put the goggles on it's like you're in the drone. It's an amazing experience. It could be compared to flying super-low and super-fast in a fighter jet. It's really exciting, and sort of like an extension of your body."
Things really took off when he won in Dubai at the world's biggest drone race. Set against the Dubai skyline, the futuristic-looking racetrack is full of neon lights and has many features in common with motor racing: hairpin bends, pit stops - for changing batteries, live onboard footage and commentators.
Wearing the colors of his XBlades Racing team, Bannister scooped the top prize of $252,000.
"He made his name in Dubai," Vincent Sergere, from the French specialist website Course-de-drone.fr, describing Bannister's flying technique as minimalistic.
"He has a very direct style as a pilot. You get the impression that he doesn't ask himself many questions, that he really gets straight to the point. The most difficult thing will be to keep his place."
As drone use proliferates around the world, FPV racing is really taking off - rather than watching the craft from the ground, the pilot puts on a headset and navigates with a real-time view from the camera mounted on board.
Drones are playing a growing part in everyday life, from parcel deliveries to video shoots, farming and security, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before they made their debut in the world of sport.
FPV competitions pit pilots against each other on race tracks, each competing as if they were physically sat in a cockpit. And while the sport is expanding, Luke remains focused on his studies and hopes to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
"The sport is expanding at a rapid rate right now, but it's a bubble so it could burst or it could keep expanding," he said.
"So we'll see where it goes, but I'd like to go to university and become a pilot after that."