12 May 2018

South Korea Dominates Qualification at the 2018 China Drone Racing Open

South Korea dominated the leaderboard after four Qualification rounds of racing at the 2018 China Drone Racing Open on Saturday, with 14-year-old MinChan Kim flying the fastest laps.

The South Korean pilot showed his mettle and demonstrated his true skill by averaging 25.575 seconds over his best three laps, well under the 30-seconds regarded as a quick lap. “It was amazing to see him fly,” Jose Manuel Martinez-Ibanez, one of the FAI Judges said.

All three top places were occupied by South Korean pilots – with all of them clocking sub-30-second times, the only three pilots in the field to do so. Second placed Kang ChangHyeon came in with 26.253 seconds, and Jeon JeoHyeong in third at 29.703 seconds.

MinChan Kim said he was happy with the result. “I flew my first race slowly but I actually then crashed,” he explained, “but I got faster in the later races.”

He added: “Lets see what happens in the next rounds – I am hopeful, but I am also worried about crashing again!”

The racing at the 2018 China Drone Racing Open in Shenzhen started on Friday afternoon after the official opening ceremony at 2pm. It then went on late into the night, finishing at 11pm as pilots fought to complete three full rounds of racing in the first day.

Two of those three Qualification rounds were completed as night races – each drone glowing with coloured LED lights, racing around a track lit up with multicoloured ribbons of light.

“Night racing is a completely different feeling for the pilots,” explained Contest Director Laurent Khong. “Flying at night is unusual for most of the pilots. It is just like you are in a video game but it is real, so it’s very fun, and a really nice feeling actually.”

He added: “A track like this doesn’t happen very often. You see a track like this maybe two or three times a year across the world. So it’s rare.”

Each Qualification race saw four pilots race against each other for two to three minutes each – all vying to learn the course and record the fastest lap times they could.

Their top three times are then averaged to give them their final Qualification time. “We take the three best laps they have done across all Qualification, and then we take the average of that,” explained Khong.

From the field of 62 pilots the top 32 pilots now compete against each other working towards the final, while the bottom 30 pilots compete against each other for a ranking.

In these Elimination rounds sudden death comes into play – only the fastest two pilots in each race get to go through to the next round.

“The fastest times were less than 26 seconds a lap in Qualification,” explained Khong. “Now they know the track better so they will probably go under that, maybe two seconds at least.”

With the Elimination rounds due to run all Saturday and into the evening as well as Sunday, the competition in Shenzhen, China will only get quicker, more intense and faster.

Rank Name Country Value
1 KIM MinChan KOR 25.575
2 KANG ChangHyeon KOR 26.253
3 JEON JeoHyeon KOR 29.703
4 KEN Inoue HKG 31.895
5 LI Kunhuang CHN 31.912
6 SHA Haihong CHN 32.089
7 LEE SangHun KOR 33.046
8 QIANG Long CHN 33.594
9 RHEE Junwhi KOR 34.154
10 CHOW Kay-Ronnie HKG 34.398