The sounds of drones buzzing in the air and crashing into concrete could be heard Thursday all throughout Golden 1 Center as eight teams competed for a $25,000 cash prize.
Sacramento native Lance Ulmer, who lives and works in Rocklin, was one of 24 drone pilots navigating through the second annual California Drone Speed Challenge’s obstacle course alongside his teammates from the Bay Area.
The 24-year-old software engineer’s group, called Team Baylands, which crashed its drones two or three times, Ulmer said, finished in fifth place behind tournament winner Team Elefun after racing in a handful of 20-minute endurance rounds.
“We had one of our guys have a little bit of an issue and it was enough to cost us,” Ulmer said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do to get in, but I think we flew very well throughout the whole time and we were very consistent, but we weren’t as fast as some of the other teams and that’s what ended up counting.”
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Comcast Xfinity and the Aerial Sports League, an international drone sports community created four years ago in San Francisco, collaborated to bring this drone racing event together.
“The majority of drone racing is you against everybody else. … This is my first team race, so it’s a new experience for me,” Ulmer said. “There’s more camaraderie and excitement because there’s more components to it than just flying and landing. Now you have to do pit stops and be smart about your strategy — it’s not just (going) as fast as you can.”
Before awarding Europe-based Team Elefun with the its prized check, representatives from Comcast handed out a $25,000 donation to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento.
Comcast made the contribution to support children in the community, said Joan Hammel, the company’s senior director of external communications in California.
“Drone sports and esports in some situations can be a pathway to the STEM careers of the future,” Hammel said. “So kids who are interested in science and technology, engineering and math very often also have keen interest in video games, esports, drone sports and these will be careers of the future.”
The races were live streamed and will also be aired on NBC Sports Bay Area roughly two to four weeks from now, said Marque Cornblatt, CEO and founder of the ASL.
This story was updated to reflect Team Baylands’ final standing as fifth place.