FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM)

06 Jan 2024

Vote Luisa Rizzo as IWGA 2023 Athlete of the Year

*** Update 22 January ***

Luisa Rizzo of Italy, our air sports candidate, has made it to the final round of the World Games Athlete of the Year 2023!

We are grateful to everyone who contributed to her inclusion in the final list of 10 candidates.

The voting has reset to zero, so you have until 12pm GMT on 31  January to vote for Luisa and show your support once again!


For 21-year-old Luisa Rizzo, flying her FPV drone at speeds of over 160km/h around an intricate obstacle course is much more than a simple hobby… The freedom that the sport represents for her – as a wheelchair user – has fuelled a passion that has put her name in lights within this fast-paced sport.

FAI is calling upon all air sports enthusiasts to cast their votes to support this determined and extraordinary young woman as IWGA 2023 Athlete of the Year.

The remarkable Italian pilot came third in the FAI World Drone Racing Championships in Namwon, Korea in 2023 and also competed in The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Luisa also gained entry into the Guinness World Record Book for clearing 56 gates in 60 seconds on live TV aged just 16.

Luisa Rizzo drone pilot

FAI put forward Luisa’s name to The World Games organisers (IWGA) who announced that she is among the 22 nominees for the 2023 Athlete of the Year. This inspirational athlete deserves to win the accolade, not only because of the remarkable drone racing skills she has honed over years of practise, but also because of her courage in challenging stereotypes and demonstrating that with enough determination, anything is possible.

How to vote for Luisa

  • Voting begins at 12:00 GMT on 10 January 2024
  • From 22 January 2024 at 12:00 GMT, the 10 highest ranked candidates will continue to the next round. These candidates will re-start the final round with 0 votes, so please vote again!
  • Three votes must be given each time to two candidates: 2 votes to your first-choice candidate and 1 vote to your second-choice candidate.
  • Voting ends on 31 January 2024 at 12:00 GMT and the winner will then be announced.
  • Click here to vote

Meet Luisa Rizzo

We were delighted to catch up with Luisa to find out how she balances her sport, her training and her studies…

Luisa, what did it mean to you to compete in The World Games?
Competing in The World Games was like living a dream for me. I’ve always loved sports and I always watch the Olympic Games (and Paralympic of course!), so being there with athletes from all around the world was amazing. It was one of the most important races I’ve ever attended.

Can you explain how drone racing makes you feel?
Drone racing is a big part of my life, I would say I can’t live without flying now! It’s that feeling of freedom and speed that makes me feel alive, I feel like I have no limits when I fly and everything is possible. Also important is the fact that I have physical difficulties and still I can compete with everyone like there is no difference. 

Luisa Rizzo drone pilot Italy

How much time do you spend each week in training?
It depends often on the weather and on other things to do (I also play Powerchair Football and study at university, and sometimes I’m on a movie set: my dream is to make that into my job!) But if the weather is good I practice at least two or three times a week. Sometimes all day and other times maybe three or four hours. If I can’t practice outside, then I do it on a simulator.

You have been drone racing since a young age, and competing from age 16. How has it influenced other things in your life?
I have been drone racing since I was 13. For sure it has influenced my life, I’ve started travelling a lot, but I still chose my studies for what I loved doing. I studied foreign languages at school, and this also came useful for every time I went around the world. Now at university I’m studying arts and cinematography, I really like the idea of working on sets and making movies!

What do you enjoy most about travelling and competing at international championships? 
International races and championship are always a good opportunity to learn a lot of things from so many pilots. And I love seeing new places and meeting people. I can always make new friends and meet old ones. For me it’s not just the race, but all that comes with it.

Do you find that event organisers have planned suitable access for wheelchair users or athletes with impaired mobility? Also IWGA (The World Games organiser) has said that para competitions will remain included in the main 2025 Chengdu games, not separated like the Olympic Games, what do you think about this?
I can say that every place I’ve been to had access for me. And when it was more difficult, the organisers did everything they could to help me or make it easier for me. I think that para and standard competitions shouldn’t be separated. It’s still sport, and para competitions have nothing less. We all have the same goal.

Finally, what does it take to be a top-class drone racer, what personal characteristics are required?
Firstly, I think there is always something to learn and improve. To be a drone racer you must have quick reflexes and good nerves. Of course practice makes perfect, so the more you train the better you do, but speed is not the only thing you need to win! You have to be prepared to react to anything you don’t expect, you have no time to think. If you have to overtake someone you can’t think twice, or you crash. Hesitation can cost you a good result. But most importantly, a race is also won with your mind, knowing when would be good to take a risk and when it’s not. Sometimes going at full speed is not necessary, it just increases the possibility of a mistake. The result is often based on pressure and mind games.

About Drone Racing

Always at the forefront of technology, drone sports give spectators a glimpse into the world of the future, where they can see displays of skill and speed against a futuristic backdrop. Drone Racing is a test of a pilot’s ability to beat other competitors by racing around a specially built course, often flying through gates and around obstacles to reach the finish line in the fastest time. 

FAI helps to regulate and provide fair competition for drone racing and drone sports, just like for other air sports.

Luisa Rizzo podium WDRC 2023

Images courtesy of Luisa Rizzo except World Drone Racing Championships 2023 (FAI).