By Preston Frazier / June 10, 2021

Incredible teamwork. Flying drones. Exciting competition in Arkansas.

As one of Pitsco’s educational consultants, I work with the Midwest region of the US and help with different educational initiatives in schools. One of the best parts of my job is when I get to be in schools or at events, meeting with students and educators. Over the past year, there not been any opportunities to visit with all the amazing students and teachers. However, recently that has changed.

At the end of April, I had the privilege of going to my first ever high school drone competition in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

I road-tripped with the Pitsco team to Southside High School, which is only about three hours away from our home campus here in Pittsburg, Kansas. In Fort Smith, I saw some talented high school students compete in their first annual drone competition.

Ultimately, our goal was to provide support and help facilitate the first year of the competition, meet team members, and ensure everything went well. I observed many things during the couple days we were there, but what stood out to me the most was the teamwork and communication. Oh yeah, the drone flying was impressive as well. 😊 Which is exactly what you would want to see at a drone competition, right?!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The first thing that caught my attention was teamwork. I can say this with certainty: these students knew how to collaborate.

Teams of two students had to complete four tasks total in the competition. In one task, each team must display their flying skills in a contained drone arena with different field elements and obstacles. One team member, the pilot, was seated and facing away from the drone arena. They could look through their video device while flying but could not view the arena.

The other team member, the spotter, verbally gave the pilot directions as to where they needed to fly and what obstacles they needed to complete. As you can see from this task, communication was key, and collaboration was vital.

Two things that were important for this task:

  • The spotter had to communicate clearly and effectively to the pilot.
  • The pilot had to listen intently, follow directions, and trust the spotter’s advice.

If neither team member in this task did their job effectively, they were doomed. On the other hand, if each team member did their job effectively, the results were awesome. It was important because teams were evaluated and scored on how well they communicated and collaborated.

Collaboration and communication are so important in everything. This competition solidified that for me, and I am glad I was able to experience it firsthand. Well done, students and teams!

Kudos to the Flying

While the teamwork was impressive, the flying really stood out as well. The speed and confidence with which the pilots flew was incredible.

The pilots had three flying scenarios during this competition:

  • The first scenario was to fly to one of the obstacles, locate a specific colored tape (red, blue, or green), take a picture of the tape, and then land on the corresponding colored landing pad. The scenario was completed when all pictures were taken, and the drone was landed on the final pad.
  • The second scenario was to knock down various golf balls. There were yellow and blue golf balls. Students had to use the drone to knock down all of one color and then move on to the next color.
  • The third scenario was a landing exercise where there were four different levels of landing pads. Students had to fly and land their drone on all four landing pads before the scenario was completed.

Hopefully, you can tell that it took some crazy good skills to complete these four scenarios. I was impressed, and I am glad we were able to capture some videos of the teams in action as well.

It’s Not All About Flying

By now, you are probably thinking this competition was only about flying a drone in an arena. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, in addition to the hands-on flying task, there were three other tasks that did not require flying.

  • One task is an FAA knowledge exam, where the students work individually on a multiple-choice test on the ins and outs regarding the FAA Part 107 standards.
  • Another task is all about maintenance and troubleshooting and the knowledge needed in case something happens with your drone.
  • In the final task, students were given a scenario and had to design and map a flight based on it.

You see, there is so much more that goes into the competition than just flying, although that is very important. It was amazing to see the students compete and collaborate, and I am looking forward to seeing this flourish in the state of Arkansas in the coming years!

If you ever need any information on how to implement drones and curriculum in your classroom, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Pitsco representative. We are more than happy to help.

For more information on a competition very similar to this one, please check out information on the brand-new SkillsUSA® Commercial sUAS (Drone) Competition.

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TOPICS: IN THE CLASSROOM, High School, Competitions, Technology, Careers, USAR, Career Expeditions, Future Ready, Hands-on Learning, Workforce Development

Preston Frazier

Written by Preston Frazier

Hi all! I’m one of Pitsco’s education advisors and have the pleasure of serving the Midwest. I travel quite a bit visiting with teachers and presenting at workshops whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I’m an alum of the University of Missouri and Pittsburg State University and a supporter of our Big Brothers Big Sisters local chapter. I love traveling, going to sporting events, and hanging out with my wife and daughter whenever possible.