Purdue hosts 2018 Collegiate Drone Racing Championship

The 2nd annual Collegiate Drone Racing Championship flew into Purdue University on Saturday, April 14. More than 64 pilots attended the event at Lambert Fieldhouse, from 20 different universities across the country. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University dominated the event, with their Daytona Beach, Florida team finishing 1st, and their Prescott, Arizona campus finishing 3rd. University of Central Florida finished 2nd.


Drone racing involves small quadcopters, which pilots operate by remote control. Cameras are mounted on the drones transmitting live video to the pilots, who wear video goggles.  With drones flying up to 80 miles an hour, and each race lasting just 2 minutes or less, the action is fast and furious.

“Drone racing is the sport of the future,” said Owen Crook, a sophomore in industrial engineering, and president of the Purdue Drone Club.  “These pilots have amazing reflexes and concentration. But more importantly, there’s a great camaraderie here, since we all enjoy the same interest.”

The Purdue Drone Club is the largest collegiate drone club in the country, with more than 180 members.  Tyler Landers, a mechanical engineering student, started the club in 2014 as a way for drone pilots to share their skills, but also share their gear.  At their workshop in the Anvil, the Purdue Drone Club has a lending library of all the parts needed to build and race drones, making it easier and cheaper for beginners to get involved in the sport.

In 2017, the Purdue Drone Club hosted the first ever Collegiate Drone Racing Championship at the Intramural Gold Fields.  “Nothing like this had ever been organized,” said Crook. “We basically Googled all the other university drone clubs across the nation and invited them to this event, and 26 different schools showed up. It was amazing.”

Bad weather forced this year’s event into Lambert Fieldhouse, but the racing was just as exciting. “Racing indoors is a challenge,” said Crook.  “You can’t really get up to maximum speed in an enclosed space, but it does make for crazy turns and maneuvers. One of our gates basically forces you to dive straight down, and then pull up immediately to keep from crashing. But plenty of us had crashes!”

Fixing the drones is just as integral to the event as racing them. Teams each had their own tables, covered with soldering irons, batteries, and lots of spare parts. But pilots are also quick to help each other out, whether it’s sharing equipment, or helping to dislodge a stuck drone from the safety nets.

“This sport is really just in its infancy,” said Crook. “You’re starting to see drone racing on TV now, and students are really becoming experts in how to get the most out of these quadcopters. This is an exciting time.”

More about drone racing at Purdue:


2018 Team Results
1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach
2. University of Central Florida
3. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott
4. UC Berkeley
5. University of North Dakota
6. Purdue University
7. Virginia Tech
8. Northeastern University
9. Oregon State University
10. University of Alabama

2018 Individual Results
1. Michael Saalwaechter (Embry-Riddle)
2. Jay Patel (Embry-Riddle)
3. Patrick White (Embry-Riddle)
4. Seth Abledinger (Georgia Tech)
5. David Hooper (Berkeley)
6. Nestor Folta (Virginia Tech)
7. Owen Crook (Purdue)
8. Lincoln Black (Rutgers)
9. James Wigton (Embry-Riddle Prescott)
10. Trey Fortmuller (Berkeley)

Purdue Drone Club: http://purduedroneclub.com

Collegiate Drone Racing Association: http://collegiatedroneracingassociation.com