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Biggest Drone Race In California Descends On Golden 1 Center

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Drone racing is an up and coming new sport and it's caught the eye of Comcast.  The company hosted the Xfinity California Drone Speed Challenge at Golden 1 Center on Thursday.

"These are some of the best teams in the world," said Shawn Ames, a drone racer with the "Heart of America" team.  "Just to be here is a win."

The race was the biggest of its kind in California, attracting pilots from all over the world. After qualifying online, 24 pilots made their way to Sacramento to compete for the grand prize of $25,000.

"I probably put in 4 to 5 days a week, 30 to 40 batteries every day," said Dallas Kemp, another member of "Heart of America."

Each team gets 20 minutes on the clock. Months of preparation comes down to following the blue light around the course to victory.

The pilots say the key to winning the race is getting in and out of the pit as quickly as possible and then making as many loops around the obstacle course as quickly as they can.

"I would like to personally thank my neighbors that deal with my practice regiment," Ames said.

A group called Elefun took home the grand prize, a team that traveled all the way from Norway and Sweden for the competition.

"It's a long trip but we made it!" said Erik Holden, a drone racer with Elefun.

Holden says he's only been flying drones for 18 months.

"It's a lot of noise and you're concentrating on your flying and it's multitasking," he told CBS13.

"It's fun to be a part of it and see how it grows," said Noah Koch, with Elefun.

It's the second year of the competition, but the first time in Sacramento.

"With drones, it's becoming a very fast-paced and widely viewed sport," said Elaine Barden, Vice President for Comcast Regional Sales and Marketing. "We have two, 100-gigabit pipes coming right into the arena and it just made perfect sense."

Sacramento pilot Lance Ulmer says it nice to finally race somewhere other than open field.

"It's totally different to fly inside of an arena like this," Ulmer said. "We've got a tight knit community and we're trying to keep hustling and this is really exciting."

And though everyone couldn't take home money Elefun has big plans for their $25,000.

"Pay our trip home!" said Oscar Nilsson, with Elefun.

Barden told CBS13 the company has seen more and more interest in drone racing from younger people.  And Comcast plans to continue hosting events like this at Golden 1 Center in the future.

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