Robots introduced to Camel Racing in the UAE
Where height doesn’t matter
One of Dubai's most competitive sports - camel racing - has just become that much more exciting. It's no secret that Dubai is one of the leading cities embracing technological advancements and supreme innovation - so it doesn't surprise us that much that even one of its oldest traditions has turned to technology to give it that extra boost.
Robot jockeys have been in use as early as 2005. The first prototype, developed by the Qatar Scientific Club, failed miserably. Consequently a Swiss robotics firm called K-Team was selected to produce an alternative. "Camel owners worried that the camels would not accept a robot jockey," Rashid Ali Mohammed Ibrahim - manager at the Qatar-based RAQBI recalls, so the K-Team built robots to mimic the jockey's weight and appearance. The robots proved successful and capable of steering the camels - however they were clumsy, difficult to operate and cost up to $10,000 each.
Ibrahim and RAQBI scientists soon realised that the previous model robot was just too big and heavy - so unlike the K-Team design, they made one locally. The Qatari one only cost $300 to make and weighed a fraction of the 33-pound Swiss robot.
The entire industry of camel racing changed after this, and it became much more competitive over the years. "There is a tremendous improvement in everything, in training, in breeding," said Dr. Ulrich Wernery of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, who follows the sport.
These robotic jockeys have really made a revival to the traditional sport of camel racing. Now when attending races expect to see camels riding down the Al Marmoom track - some 40 km out of Dubai - galloping as fast as 50km/hr to the finish line, with their owners - equipped with remote controlled whips controlling the robotic jockeys - driving parallel to the camels in white SUVs.