Great drone dreams come true

A Hong Kong drone racer flew his drone over the Great Wall of China in an international competition recently.

Stella Wong

Thursday, May 02, 2019

A Hong Kong drone racer flew his drone over the Great Wall of China in an international competition recently.

William Ho Wing-chi was selected as one of the top 10 players in China to represent the nation in the wild card teams in the Drone Champions League competition last August.

He took to drone racing in August 2017 after watching videos of the competition. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to be in the third-placed team only a year later.

Ho said the competition attracted him because drone races are held at different world heritage sites, such as the Arc de Triomphe in France in April 2017 and Las Ventas in Spain a year later.

"I never expected that within just one year I would be joining this competition at the Great Wall," he said.

Sitting in an amphitheater with a stage and a large auditorium, Ho raced with other pilots right beneath a section of the Great Wall called Simatai.

"When you are flying the drone, everything you can see from the goggle is the magnificent Great Wall scenery," he said.

"If my drone had crashed on the Great Wall accidentally, I would have been afraid to be caught destroying the major historical and cultural site protected at the national level," he said jokingly.

Ho said the competition was professional in every aspect, including the production and competitors' attitude to drone racing. "It felt like a Formula One race. It's not just a game, its a motor sport."

Ho said drone racing requires perseverance and concentration, but not physical ability.

"If Hong Kong can put more time and resources into the sport, I believe the result with our pilots will not be disappointing," Ho said.

He added many world champions are young. A 15-year-old Australian boy was crowned overall champion at the FAI Drone Racing World Championships in Shenzhen last year, while an 11-year-old racer from Thailand won the women's title.

Another Hong Kong team member, Kenix Lai, was in the same competition with the teenagers.

She first started flying drones to locate injured animals while she was a volunteer inspector with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her friends then encouraged her to take part in drone racing.

Lai was thrilled to compete just three months after she started playing the sport. "I remember it very clearly that when I took off my goggles, my coach and my teammates were more emotional than me. They even had tears in their eyes," she said.

"At that moment, I felt like I could finish a mission impossible in just three months. If I work harder, I can even be better in the future."

Lai regrets missing chances to join the Hong Kong team when she was an elite student athlete in football.

"I thought I would never be playing in a Hong Kong team any more after I started working. Now, suddenly I have the chance again.

"I never expected that my impossible dream of the past has now come true," she said.