- Career & Innovation
CCHS students to compete in U.S. Drone Soccer Championship
“I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.”
That’s how Joe Miller felt when he was introduced to the sport of drone soccer in 2021 during a summer camp at Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight in Centennial. Now he and four other students from Cherry Creek High School are headed to the national U.S. Drone Soccer Championship, being held on April 16 at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Ithaca, New York.
Miller and fellow senior Charlie Loudermilk, juniors Alden Mendrey and Ben Fliegelman and sophomore Micah Shapiro, along with three other teammates who are home-schooled, make up the Sky Blazers drone soccer team. They will face 16 other teams from across the U.S. in the relatively new, high-tech sport of drone soccer, where science meets sport. The coed sport was developed just six years ago in South Korea and has existed in the U.S. for two years. It’s played in a 10x10x20 foot netted cage.
“There are five drones on each side with one striker and four defenders,” Alden Mendrey explained. “The striker is trying to fly through the goal on the other side, while the four defenders are using full contact to try and stop the striker.”
Mendrey and Miller are co-captains of the Sky Blazers. The independent team is undefeated in Colorado since 2021 and recently won the U.S. Drone Soccer Mountain District IX Championship. Both Mendrey and Miller have earned their FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate and were selected for the 2022 Top Pilot Award from U.S. Drone Soccer. It is an aviation workforce development program, where students learn to play a fun sport as well as how to build, program and repair professional-grade drones.
“These kids are so dedicated,” said Maj. Kyle Sanders, (Ret, USAF), vice president of Development for U.S. Drone Soccer. “They’ve shown a lot of leadership in the last few years, sticking with the program, building a team, coaching themselves, and learning this technology in and out.”
In fact, Miller and Mendrey have excelled so much that they’ve been named to the U.S. National Drone Soccer Team and will be competing in the first FIDA World Drone Soccer Championship, May 17-20, in Incheon, Korea. Sponsored by FIDA, the Federation of International Drone Soccer Association, 20 countries have been invited to participate and the top team will win a $10,000 scholarship.
According to U.S. Drone Soccer, the sport supports career skills training and workforce development. Participation in drone soccer opens doors to high-paying careers in aviation, such as drone operations, engineering, aircraft repair, air traffic control, and traditional pilot training.
The Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) offers a drone pilot course as part of the school’s Aviation Pathway.
Miller, who hopes to start a drone soccer team at his college, says he will miss flying with his Sky Blazer teammates.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot of lessons playing drone soccer for the last two years,” he said. But he is hopeful that the team will grow and continue to give students an amazing opportunity to have fun and learn valuable skills that may lead them to a challenging and rewarding career.