Drone racing program takes off

New program aims to become club


Noah Orloff

Senior Rafe Covin practices flying a drone Sept. 11. The group’s first meeting of the school year included flying around and an informational presentation.

Gabriel Kaplan

At Park’s drone racing program’s first meeting Sept. 11, senior Will Schweitering, the leader of the activity, said he hopes to turn drone racing into a club in order to spread the fun of the sport to more people. 

“We want to be a club, but it’s really just a way for us to come together and fly,” Will Schweitering said. “It’s definitely a unique sport . . . and we’ll see if it gains popularity.”

According to engineering teacher Mark Miller, the activity’s adviser, drone racing came to Park through his connection to a community member already involved in it.

“The drone racing started last year. A parent who lives in St. Louis Park was really big into it and he wanted to try to get a couple of high schools to jump on board,” Miller said. “We tried it and competed against the only other high school that was willing to join the ranks as well, which was Apple Valley High School.”

If you enjoy video games, if you’ve ever flown a drone of any type or if you haven’t flown a drone but you’re interested in joining the team, it’ll be interesting.”

— Mark Miller

Will Schweitering said he first got involved last year, and chose to buy his own equipment.

“Last year I bought my own equipment. I started flying with the engineering three group when I was in engineering two,” Will Schweitering said. “After that I kept flying with Hydra, the company (that runs the races), and I’ve kept flying with them ever since.”

Will Schweitering got his younger brother Nate — an 8th grader at the middle school — hooked on the game, who said he now hopes to compete in competitions later this year.

“Since my brother is starting the (activity), he introduced me to the sport and showed me the basics of it. Then I started flying at my house,” Nate Schweitering said. “I like the new sport and how (the control) is first person view.”

Two hours before each race, competitors get to walk the course and survey its unique challenges and obstacles, according to Miller.

“The pilots are seeing what the drone sees,” Miller said. “You fly as if you’re a bird flying through the air. The course consists of a bunch of obstacles. Last year Apple Valley hosted it and they had what we call gates, which could be something like a hula hoop.”

Will Schweitering said the sport is growing in popularity across the metro, with a number of new high schools looking into joining in competition.

“(Last year) was the world’s first high school league drone race,” Will Schweitering said. “This year Apple Valley is coming back as well as St. Louis Park. Hydra, the (company)  running it, have reached out to multiple different schools. I believe we have 32 schools (in Minnesota) that are interested.”

Miller said any high schoolers, especially those interested in video games, should consider trying drone racing.

“If you enjoy video games, if you’ve ever flown a drone of any type or if you haven’t flown a drone but you’re interested in joining the team, it’ll be interesting,” Miller said. “If you have questions, stop by (B136) and we’ll talk and I’ll show you some drones.”