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UMN students win Minnesota State Collegiate Drone Sports Championship

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (6/21/2021) – Student team, Alphadrone, from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering raced their way to victory at the inaugural Minnesota State Collegiate Drone Sports Championship in Bloomington, Minnesota in both the Individual Racing and the Team Racing category.

The championship was held by RdyTechGo, a first-of-its-kind venue for competitive STEM and tech sports, at Mall of America. RdyTechGo was created by Hydra FPV who also hosts the Youth Drone Sports Championships (YDSC) at both college and high school levels. Hydra FPV has co-developed an educational Build-and-Race FPV drone kit that would offer schools hardware and curriculum assistance.

Aside from winning as part of the team, undergraduate student Clayton Horstman-Olson won the individual collegiate state championship as well as the international collegiate simulator championship completing his own sweep at the Collegiate Drone Sports Championship (CDSC) level.

Alphadrone’s Samuel Westlake (team leader) and Clayton Horstman-Olson both competed individually and as a team. Drone pilots are typically given codenames. Westlake was known as NautilusFPV and Horstman-Olson as Speedy. Students have been racing virtually since COVID-19, bringing home controllers used to pilot drones and plugging them in virtually. This competition, however, was one of the first in-person events held this year. The team won first place, while University of Minnesota Duluth achieved second, and St. Cloud State took third.

We feel great about our win in the State Team competition and look forward to seeing more teams next year. The biggest challenge was definitely time. We had very little time to practice the track before we raced on it and the other teams were very experienced on it already. We were able to fly consistently enough to make up for our lack of flat-out speed and that consistency made all the difference in the finals.” – Samuel Westlake

Drone racing is a unique sport where pilots wear special headsets that connect to the drones, allowing the pilots to fly as if they were inside the drone. Pilots race through technical, 3-dimensional tracks, going through gates, tunnels and weaving around flags. Outdoor racing drones can go as fast as 100mph on the open straights of a track. Indoor drones aren’t quite as fast and have covered blades that help prevent injury if they bump into people. “We call it drone sports because it’s more than just racing. We build, program, and design the drones. It encompasses all aspects of the drones.” Said Marty Wetherall, CEO of Hydra FPV.

Westlake, a senior in Mechanical Engineering, has been flying and building drones since before attending the University of Minnesota. He took his passion for the sport and formed the University’s first drone racing team. “I love the feeling of flying in the goggles that I wear and I want to give other people that chance as well. Because there were no existing drone racing teams on campus, I reached out to AIAA and was able to create a subteam [Alphadrone] under their direction.”

This summer, the team plans on casually practicing and handling logistics such as team apparel and potential new leadership as Westlake will be graduating next year. The team is hopeful to gain more team members and see more people join drone racing.

Students interested in joining Alphadrone and racing with the team can contact Samuel Westlake at westl255@umn.edu.

Colleges, universities, or anyone interested in forming teams and competing can contact Marty Wetherall, CEO of Hydra FPV for more information at 952-270-7922 or email marty@youthdronesports.org.

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