Drone racing focuses on recruitment

Team refines ability through online simulator


Used with permission from Clayton Horstman Olson. Senior Horstman Olson is co-captain of Park’s drone racing team which currently is working to recruit new members.

Gabriel Kaplan

Although the COVID-19 pandemic halted much of the drone racing team’s in-person activities, senior and co-captain Clayton Horstman Olson said he has been able to refine his skills and enjoy the sport virtually.

“It was a crazy transition in the spring,” Horstman Olson said. “We were heading into the final races before the state tournament — so everyone on our team was really grinding to get good at flying the drones on real courses — and when the pandemic hit, tons of sports and activities got canceled. But, racing on the simulator allowed us to continue.”

According to Horstman Olson, the sport is straightforward. Competitors race custom drones through a simulator or physical obstacle course, flying through the drone’s perspective with a small camera on top of the device and virtual reality goggles. Some play other variations like drone soccer, allowing for a diverse array of ways to participate in the sport.

Adviser Mark Miller said recruiting new members poses the team’s greatest challenge.

“With distance learning, it’s more challenging to get kids going in these teams that we’ve been doing,” Miller said. “We’re in the stage right now where I’m trying to recruit some more pilots.”

According to senior and co-captain Marcos Tapia, the pandemic complicated many of the team’s go-to outreach methods.

“Last year, the seniors did all the recruiting so we are pretty new to it. But, we are mostly reaching out to friends who might be interested, and we also are relying on Mr. Miller as a resource to get younger people — in say, the freshman classes — to join in,” Tapia said.

The team itself branches out into a group of friends, it’s really tight-knit and it’s a whole lot of fun to be together”

— Marcos Tapia

Horstman Olson said he hopes others try out the sport and see how immersive it can be.

“I love it a lot, the main thing for me is I’m a really hands-on person. I find a lot of the theories and information (in school) can be interesting and are good to know about, but engineering is something I’ve really enjoyed,” Horstman Olson said. “(People) should just go for it, try it, it’s a really fun experience.”

According to Tapia, drone racing is a great bonding activity and allows for a much more engrossing experience than many other sports.

“The team itself branches out into a group of friends, it’s really tight-knit and it’s a whole lot of fun to be together. It’s a great way to build relationships especially with those just getting into it,” Tapia said. “In terms of actually flying, it’s nice being able to immerse yourself in the experience and basically be the drone while you are flying.”

Interested students should reach out to Miller in room B136 or through email.