As drones continue to grow in popularity for hobby and aerial photography, two MSOE students are taking it to the next level: competitive flying. Alex Holt and Mike Sheets will be competing in the 2019 Collegiate Drone Racing Association (CDRA) Championship on April 13-14 at the University of North Dakota. The top 100 fastest collegiate pilots from across the nation will compete as both individuals and school teams to claim their fame as the fastest in the nation.  

Purdue University started the drone competition two years ago with the goal of gathering the fastest collegiate racers in the nation to expand interest in the hobby and create a pathway to industry for students. Not only does it allow collegiate drone pilots to show off their skills and connect with peers, it opens professional networking opportunities.  

Drone racing isn’t just an exhilarating hobby – it also allows students to implement problem solving and technical skills as they are responsible for picking out the parts, building the aircraft, and making any repairs after crashes.  

Different from your typical remote-controlled aircraft, drone pilots wear goggles that receive a live feed from a camera on their drone, allowing them to see a first-person perspective of their aircraft in real time. Drone pilots navigate through a series of hairpin turns, loops and obstacles, traveling at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.  

The University of North Dakota transformed its 200,000 square-foot High Performance Center to house the intricate championship drone racing course. Pilot practice sessions begin on Saturday with the competition to follow on Sunday. The event is free to attend and will be live-streamed here.