Coetzee wins Shell drone challenge

By Michael Uugwanga

ON 29 November, Shell Namibia in partnership with Space Dimension, hosted the first ever Drone Challenge in Namibia, a new sport code that could soon be included with other official 58 sport codes.

The first edition of the Vivo Energy Namibia contest took place at Tony Rust Racing Tracks, west of Windhoek, and was witnessed by invited guests as a starter to introduce the new sport code.

Drone racing is a sport where participants control “drones” (typically small radio-controlled aircraft or quad copters), equipped with cameras while wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drone.

Drone racing began in Australia in late 2013 and early 2014 with a number of amateur pilots getting together for semi-organised races in Brisbane and Melbourne (Australia).

In 2018 International Aeronautical Federation (FAI) hosted its first Drone Racing World Championship in Shenzhen, China, with over 128 competitors from 34 countries.

Drone racing technology works in a way that pilots only see what the drone sees and this is accomplished by live streaming footage from a camera mounted on the nose of the drone.

Organiser of the Vivo Energy Namibia Drone Challenge Archie Shipanga told Confidente Sport that they want to make it an annual event and are also looking to register the sport with the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC).

“The Drone sport is only hosted at a safe place, such as this one (Tony Rust Racing) because any piece of a drone can cause harm to an aeroplane flying over, that is why the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA) is also on board,as they are responsible for ensuring that it is safe to have this event. We want to make the sport big, just like in other countries. Next year or the year after we could register it with the Sport Commission. The sport is fun and enjoyable,” Shipanga said.

Yochanaan Coetzee won the inaugural Drone Challenge, including N$3,000 in prize money, ahead of Ruan de Wet, who walked away with N$2,000 for his second-place finish, while Rezano van Wyk took home N$1,000 for earning third place.

Also speaking to Confidente Sport, Pascal Supply, a local dealer of drones said he imports helicopters and aircraft (types of drones) from South Africa and believes the sport could become big in the near future if more marketing is done to promote the sport code, as in other countries.

“Belgium is where most drones are manufactured. I import helicopters from South Africa. The cheapest could go for N$10,000, while the expensive ones can reach N$60,000. The sport has the potential to grow if it is well marketed,” said Supply.

Managing director of Vivo Energy Namibia Edward Walugembe said he was pleased with the initiative and also hoped that drone racing becomes more popular.

“I am so happy with this initiative and I am hoping that this event will grow and become an annual event. Thank you all for coming and hope to see you again next year,” Walugembe said.