Much to the chagrin of aspiring pilots, drones are sure to play a prominent role in many forms of aviation in the not-so-distant future. So how do you create a talent pool for children who know how to pilot and repair drones?
Kyle Sanders, Football Vice President and former US Air Force combat pilot, seeks to do just that by training students in robotics, coding, and aerospace. Drone Soccer, which a spokesperson says looks a lot like Quidditch from the Harry Potter books, was introduced to South Korea in 2016 and moved to the United States as an educational and fun sport.
So how do you play?
“Drone Soccer is an educational sport where students must first learn how to build, program, fly and repair high performance drones,” Sanders tells me. “Competition itself is an exciting full-contact sport, these drones have a protective exoskeleton and are designed for collision. Equal 3v3 to 5v5 teams play in a mesh arena and it is an accessible game for newbies. players, with growth opportunities through college programs and even the World Cup. Our first test events were held in Colorado, USA. Space Foundation in Colorado Springs and Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. “
The first Drone Soccer tournament in North America will take place at Colorado Springs, CO in July. As a veteran, Kyle has a background in aerospace education and works with local institutions to create a American drone football program which provides equipment, training and lesson plans to schools that embrace sport.
“NASA just landed the first drone flying on another planet with the Mars Ingenuity helicopter,” Sanders said. “Students can see that drones are the future, with new and unexpected applications in all industries. It is also a way to earn money and launch a career at a young age.”
But, Sanders warns, the path to a future in aviation has never been so obscure.
“There is a huge talent shortage where students are intimidated away from the fields of scientific and technical careers. Speaking as a former pilot, there are hundreds of aerospace careers beyond just operating the controls. Our program introduces them to all the fast-growing opportunities and skills they might acquire, such as 3D modeling, small-scale manufacturing, computer programming, robotics, and flight operations. Wings Over the Rockies runs training camps all summer where students really dive into these topics and open doors to future careers. “
Colorado Springs’ Coronado and Mitchell High Schools will serve as test pilots in Colorado Springs, potentially ushering in a new generation of better guns. To ensure that the sport is accessible to all students, a combination of federal and state funding is used.
“Colorado is the site of our first test league, and we’ve worked closely with educators and administrators in Colorado Springs and Denver,” says Sanders. Colorado Springs District 11 enrolled the first two high school programs with Coronado High School takes second place in our first student tournament. School districts are hungry for a comprehensive drone program that meets their classroom and career preparation needs. They want to prepare students for this exciting new field. Registration is open for the next school year and we are adding new schools every week. “
Colorado Springs already plays an important role in US aviation as the home of the US Air Force Academy, five military installations, and more than 250 aerospace and defense companies in the region.
“Aerospace and defense companies are eager to work with local economic development groups like the Colorado Springs House and EDC and city and state governments to attract tech talent and train the next generation of leaders in this space. Drone Soccer is a double win for keeping kids learning over the summer or after school, and for encouraging these students to learn more about aerospace, coding and engineering. “