The DHL Tower in Bonn was the spectacular venue for the third round of the current DR1 DHL Champions Series. Five three-man teams were vying with each other to master the intricacies of the circuit. And what a circuit it was! Because for the first time in the history of drone racing, a building was integrated into the layout – the 162.5-meter DHL Tower. This section involved a vertical climb and a rapid descent to ground level.
This tower is incredible.Ricky Martinez
In addition to the DHL Tower as the centerpiece of the course, the drones had to be steered over a lake and along a narrow tree-lined straight – a tricky undertaking for the pilots who had to negotiate four laps per heat. “This tower is incredible,” said drone operator Ricky Martinez enthusiastically. “We’ve had nothing like this in any previous race.” And fellow racer Shaun Taylor agreed: “What acceleration – it shakes you to the core! It’s the ultimate thrill.”
A partnership with a future
DHL has gone into partnership with DR1, reflecting the growing importance of drone technology as it becomes an integral part of the supply chain of the future. “The whole technology of drones is evolving, also in relationship to eCommerce,” explains DHL Express CEO Ken Allen. He has identified the younger generation in particular as a target group: “Every single person in the world is a potential customer. We need to ensure that our brand is associated with major events and exciting opportunities.”
The market for drones is growing, likewise for drone racing.Ken Allen
DHL is considered a pioneer in the field of drone technology. In 2013, the company began developing the Parcelcopter, designed to transport goods to geographically problematic areas such as the Alps. DHL Supply Chain also has deployed drones in Mexico and Brazil for security surveillance, monitoring sites and assets to protect them against theft and damage. Drones can also be used for aid deliveries in the context of relief missions after natural disasters.
The scope for using drones is thus as varied as the locations where the various rounds of the DR1 DHL Champions Series are contested. In addition to the DHL Tower in Bonn, the itinerary includes the Mojave Desert in the USA and the Isle of Man. “It’s great for us that we got in right at the start,” says Ken Allen. “The market for drones is growing, likewise for drone racing. We’ve made a good decision.”
Tom Coronel as an avid observer
One especially interested observer of the race in Bonn was DHL brand ambassador Tom Coronel. The Dutchman is usually to be found on the grid of the FIA WTCC, but he was also visibly thrilled by the drones and impressed by the pilots controlling them. “They are faster than I thought – this is one hundred percent the sport of the future,” said Coronel, who also tried out the remote-control unit. “This is the sort of toy that you can enjoy as an adult. The circuit here in Bonn is very impressive.”
Victory in the first ever round of the DR1 DHL Champions Series to be contested in the grounds of DHL headquarters in Bonn went to Team KDRA who prevailed over Team Rebel in the final by a score of 36 points to 18. “It’s an incredible feeling,” said a delighted Brian Morris. “We got stronger over the weekend, but the others teams got stronger at the same time. So we have to keep pushing.”