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Drone racing program at Spire Institute in Geneva taking students to new heights

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Posted at 11:29 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 11:29:47-04

GENEVA, Ohio — Drone racing is one of the fastest sports, both in the speed of the quadcopters that zoom around the course as well as the overall growth of the sport in general.

At Spire Institute in Geneva, the esports program is expanding, and drone racing has been added to the curriculum.

For many, it may start as a hobby, but for students at Spire it could take off into a career they never thought possible.

“Kids see a drone racing league on TV and they want to get into racing," said instructor Andy Stankiewicz. “It’s kind of the hook that draws them in.”

Races are held on a pre-designed route. Pilots race their quadcopters through a series of gates attempting to complete the most laps in a two-minute time span.

From there, qualifiers are seeded into brackets, and the racing continues.

“It’s super adrenaline-charged; you feel like you’re flying.” said Angela Jacques. “When you crash, you feel like you’ve crashed.

While consumer drones with luxury features like GPS and stabilization have exploded in popularity in recent years, these devices are much different.

“They’re different than what you buy at Best Buy or Target,” Stankiewicz said. “They’re full manual control- there’s n auto stability, it’s all pilot control.”

Aside from aerial photography and videography, drones can be utilized in a variety of ways across a number of different industries.

“Search and rescue, crop maintenance, bridge inspections,” Stankiewicz said. “SWAT teams used them to clear buildings since it’s safer than sending a person.”

Even Amazon has tested package delivery via drone. With applications that appear to have no limit, Spire wants to make sure students are positioned for the future.

“Whether it’s drones, VR, (Virtual Reality) AR (Augmented Reality), these are things that are going to drastically change the workforce in the next 20 years,” said Robert Skinnion, director, of esports at Spire. “Being familiar with these technologies and how they might impact industries that you work in is how we’re going to take that next step forward.”

Spire holds monthly meetups, but they fill up fast. They also hold a summer drone camp for anyone interested in learning more about drone racing and their additional applications.

“For many students who aren’t interested in a traditional sport, something like drone racing or esports is a great way to get that mentorship, that coaching, that team environment,” Skinnion said.

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