On Your Mark, Get Set, Fly: Drone Racing to Be Featured at The World Games 2025

The lesser-known sibling of the Olympic Games, which features sports that didn’t make the cut for the big stage, will pit remote drone pilots against one another.

The lesser-known sibling of the Olympic Games will treat drone pilots as professional athletes.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale or World Air Sports Federation (FAI) confirmed that drone racing will be included as an event at The World Games 2025 in Chengdu, China, following its debut at the 2022 Games in Birmingham, Alabama. The 11-day event, held every four years since 1981, features sports that didn’t make the cut for the Olympics.

In August 2025, 32 drone pilots from around the world will don first-person-view (FPV) goggles and fly radio-controlled drones through brightly lit gates and other obstacles. The drones, which pilots often build themselves, can reach speeds faster than 100 mph.

The World Games are hosted by the International World Games Association: a nonprofit organization comprising 39 international sports federations backed by the International Olympic Committee. The Chengdu Games will be the event’s twelfth installment and the third time an Asian city has hosted.

The 2022 event in Birmingham included 3,257 athletes from 99 nations, 23 venues, 377,000 spectators, and 58 disciplines across 34 sports: including, for the first time within the air sports category, drone racing. The category, established by FAI ahead of the 1997 Games, has also featured parachuting, paragliding, and aerobatics.

Drone racing has quickly caught on in the World Games sphere. Drone pilot Luisa Rizzo of Italy, for example, was runner-up for The World Games 2023 Athlete of the Year award, garnering more than 55,000 votes in the final 24 hours of voting.

According to FAI, preparations for Chengdu are already underway, and venues and pilots will be announced leading up to the event. The organization anticipates a high number of junior pilots, similar to its World Drone Racing Championships (WDRC) in October.

Held annually, the WDRC is the world’s largest drone racing competition. It pits pilots against one another as they zip around specially designed courses. At The World Games, as many as six radio-controlled multirotor aircraft at a time will compete for the fastest time around a closed circuit featuring gates and other obstacles.

The drones will weigh no more than 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) and be equipped with on-board video cameras. These will transmit real-time video to the pilots’ FPV goggles, allowing them to control the drones. But the aircraft often hit speeds above 100 mph, so their reflexes will need to be quick. Races are expected to last about three minutes, taking place indoors and outdoors, day or night.

FAI introduced the “e-Drone” Racing Cup—a virtual version of the typical competition—and drone soccer at last year’s WDRC. In addition, the federation hosts the Drone Racing World Cup, a series of open events taking place throughout the year. To compete, pilots need an FAI Sporting License or Permission for Drone Racing. Eleven events are on the agenda for 2024, according to FAI’s website.

For junior pilots who don’t quite feel ready for the big stage, good news: Plenty of middle schools, high schools, and colleges in the U.S. have introduced drone racing programs for students. Organizations such as MultiGP and Drones in School are helping to introduce a younger generation to drone piloting, and aviation more generally. The increasingly popular competitions are popping up around the country—perhaps they’ve already discovered the next drone racing world champion.

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