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Five questions: Luke BannisterFive questions: Luke Bannister

Drone flying champion

Luke Bannister won the World Drone Prix in Dubai in 2016 when he was just 15. He’s 20 now, but he still looks ridiculously young to already have won more than $250,000 in prize money, be an authority in his sport, and dominate an industry.
Five Questions
Photography courtesy Breitling

He’s set world records in drone racing across the world. He films the aerial sequences for commercials for companies such as BMW and the European Football League, and he delivers medical supplies via drone for the National Health Services in England and Scotland.

Bannister—who goes by the moniker BanniUK on Instagram and other social media sites—has established himself in three areas of the drone industry. “The filming side, I get to be quite creative. I love the competition in the racing side. And I think drone delivery is at the forefront of this industry,” he said.

“I’m not sure—at 20—what my future looks like, but I’m pretty embedded in the drone industry. I have toyed with the idea of getting
my pilot license and considered joining the RAF [Royal Air Force], but I have a passion for this, and I think if you have the passion and
determination, you can be good at anything.”

How did you get started flying drones? At 14, I discovered FPV [first-person view] flight and later drones on the internet. I became fascinated by the prospect of having a bird’s-eye view of the world and persuaded my parents to give me some FPV goggles for Christmas. It opened a first level of flying as if I was inside my RC aircraft and I began using my goggles on my airplanes. I became hooked. It was awesome! 

What are the most challenging aspects of flying drones? The most challenging aspect isn’t necessarily the flying. Over the years I have built my skill to where it is second nature. The challenging aspect for me is the building, tuning, and tweaking. I’m constantly trying to make my drones fly better, have a more direct feel, or a smoother outcome for the HD camera I carry.

What is your favorite part of drone flying? My favorite part is having turned my hobby into a job. I get to travel, film, and race as part of my work, which is a dream come true.

What is the future of drones? The future is exciting for the drone industry: transport (parcels/medical deliveries/personal flying machines); agriculture (crop spraying/fire fighting); conservation, construction, survey/mapping, and surveillance sectors.

Do you have advice for someone wanting to start flying drones? There is plenty of information online on how to build a FPV drone and it is the best place to start. It is important that before you get your first drone you understand the rules in your region on drone flying. It will take time and perseverance to learn like any new skill, but I believe it’s worth it.  

[email protected]

Instagram: @BanniUK

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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