COVID has made it rough to be a student. But this May, high schoolers in Colorado participated in North America’s first academic drone soccer competition. Leagues, a summer camp and a national rollout are scheduled to follow, with the goal being to build education and enthusiasm among the next generation of professional fliers.
“Wings Over the Rockies: Exploration of Flight,” a flight experience facility in Englewood, Colorado, hosted this debut tournament. Per the rules, teams of three to five stood outside a 10 feet by 10 feet by 20 feet netted “airfield” and attempted to score points by steering mini-quadcopters through a vertical hoop. As befits a competition mirroring a contact sport and involving objects hurtling toward each other, the drones were encased in plastic exoskeletons, a look similar to the UAS you can find exploring mines and other tight spaces.
Sounds like fun. But there’s a purpose to the game, explained Major Kyle Sanders, vice president and co-founder of U.S. Drone Soccer. “Students are excited because they can go straight from what they’ve learned in the high school classroom into really engaging high-paying careers. We’re trying to open the doors to these opportunities for kids who don’t even know that they exist.”