The Collegiate Drone Racing Association exists to help and serve collegiate drone clubs and students across the country. It was started and is run by collegiate racers with the goal of growing drone racing at the collegiate level. Whether you are a club just starting out and looking for funding and guidance, or a student organization that is well established and looking for competitive collegiate racing, we are the organization who will be able to help you every step along the way.
University of Texas San Antonio
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Louisville
University of Alabama
University of Central Florida
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Austin Peay State University
Ohio State University
Oregon State University
University of Louisville
University of Minnesota
Embry Riddle – Prescott
University of North Dakota
Embry Riddle – Daytona
South Dakota State University
Air Force Academy
Milwaukee School of Engineering
North Idaho College
Wichita State University
University of Texas at Dallas
One of the first steps to starting a club is establishing yourself as a club or group on your campus. This may differ across universities, but many perks include being able to reserve space on campus, sending emails to prospective students, and receiving funding. Get established on your campus!
When it comes to finding members, one of the easiest ways is having a call-out. Advertise by chalking on campus, sending out emails, and hanging fliers. Drones are awesome, exciting, and honestly market themselves. If you advertise properly, be expected to be a little overwhelmed with the first turnout! Be prepared at your first meeting with ideas for the club and exciting projects or activities for the future. This is your new club – make it what you want it to be!
Okay so finding people who are interested in drones is not hard, but keeping them interested and far enough into the hobby to keep going on their own can be quite challenging! One of the best ways to keep fellow students interested is by getting their hands dirty and jumping right into the hobby. Building, Soldering, Programming, Flying, Racing. These are the keys to keep members coming back! What has proven very successful at Universities across the county are group buy and builds. To summarize, a full FPV set-up is chosen with parts that are a good cross-over between affordable and quality. The club receives money from it’s members and then buys all the equipment. When the parts come in, everyone get’s together to learn how to build, solder, program, and eventually fly the quadcopter. By taking the stress and confusion out of researching and understanding all of the parts that go into building a quadcopter, a total novice can learn from a more advanced student.
Another reason Universities have been successful is having a club space complete with equipment and aircraft. The most robust clubs have multiple sets of transmitters and goggles that they loan out to their members. This helps to break down the largest barrier for college students which is cost… By providing the ground equipment, students end up paying roughly $150 for a full FPV racing quadcopter, versus hundreds of dollars for ground equipment. Consider purchasing club ground equipment, as pooling your resources can help maximize the number of students that will be interested.
Finally, one of the largest aspects of starting a successful club is the social aspect: Flying. Many clubs won’t have large group buy and builds or even a club space, and that is totally fine! The core part of every group is the social aspect of getting out and flying together. Whether you have a weekly time and place to meet up and build or fly, or competitive weekend racing, this is where you will find the heart of every collegiate club. If you want to grow together, you NEED TO FLY TOGETHER.
Flying On Campus
Flying on campus may be one of the most unique, and honestly most difficult, parts to starting a drone club. Some universities may already be drone-friendly, and you will have no issue flying on campus. If this is the case, it is encouraged to be aware of all rules and regulations, and to make sure you don’t lose this privilege. If your university is like many others, they may have strict no-fly rules on campus. This has been quite common, but it is not impossible to get permission to fly. Two words: BE PROACTIVE. Many universities are either unaware of the FAA guidelines on flying recreational drones or took the “No Drones” route because it was easy, simple, and safe.
When trying to get permission to fly on campus, it is important to be proactive and work with campus officials. Many departments may have a say in this discussion, including “Campus Safety”, “Student Activities and Organizations”, “Safety and Risk Management”, and many other names. Be clear with your intentions, know the laws, and be willing to work with them to ensure you will be conducting safe and legal flights if allowed. One of the biggest thoughts when drones come to mind is safety – have some well thought out ideas and proposals for how your club will be safe on campus. Do your members need to review a presentation and take a safety quiz? Be registered AMA members? Have a certain number of completed simulator hours? All of these are ideas that have been used and implemented at universities across the nation. Be prepared for your meeting and go into it with a positive mindset, it will take you far. Finally, if university officials are not budging, mention how most of the top engineering and aviation universities in the US compete in the CDRA Championship, and this should spur some enthusiasm from above.
It is highly recommended to start an AMA UMASC Club. It costs only $120/club ($40 club registration and $80 site registration), and allows members to get their AMA membership including a full $1.5 million insurance policy for only $15/student (normally $100). In order to participate in the CDRA championship, each pilot must have their AMA membership. This can definitely help universities on their decision of allowing on-campus flights, if each member is required to have this policy in order to fly.