Colorado to host nation’s first ‘drone soccer’ tournaments

Effort takes off in partnership with Wings Over the Rockies, training camps in Centennial area

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The idea of “drone soccer” may be difficult to picture, but the obscure sport appears poised to make an entrance into the public eye.

“What we’re doing is highly educational and teaches career skills, and that’s really valuable, especially for young people who are figuring out what they want to study,” said Kyle Sanders, the vice president for U.S. Drone Soccer, the national representative for the sport.

Drone soccer is an electronic, educational “e-sport” where participants build, program, learn to fly and repair drones, Sanders said. A team sport, participants play using racing drones surrounded by plastic exoskeletons. In a netted arena with a hoop on either end, teams try to prevent opponents from flying into their hoop by blocking their drones and crashing into them, Sanders said.

The Rocky Mountain State Games — an event that Sanders called the largest multisport event in the state — is hosting the first statewide tournament for drone soccer, tentatively set to start July 31 at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs.

The Rocky Mountain games are “like a mini-Olympics,” Sanders said. “That includes for athletes with physical disabilities and other events.”

U.S. Drone Soccer launched in Colorado with the first academic program adopted at Coronado High School, according to the games’ event website.

The upcoming state games will also be the first public tournament in North America for drone soccer, according to Sanders.

“There have been international competitions in other countries,” but nothing in North America, Sanders said. “It’ll be available, there will be competitions, in rest of the country by the end of the year.”

U.S. Drone Soccer is introducing new academic and community leagues across the country and serves as national representatives to the World Air Sports Federation, according to the state games’ event website.

The rise of the sport has also landed it in the Denver metro area, collaborating with Wings Over the Rockies — a nonprofit that works to educate about aviation and space — and the nonprofit’s Exploration of Flight campus, where flight enthusiasts can have fun but also learn about aerospace in general. The Exploration of Flight campus sits at Centennial Airport in the south metro area.

On May 1, the Exploration of Flight facility hosted what the Wings nonprofit called the first academic competition in North America for high school students, bringing in students from Coronado and Westminster high schools and the Wings Aerospace Pathways program, according to a news release.

On top of that, beginning June 1, drone soccer training camps will take place at the Exploration of Flight facility for students ages 12 to 17 who want to learn to build and fly drones as they prepare for the Rocky Mountain State Games, according to a news release.

New training sessions are to occur from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday on specific weeks in June and July. Registrants may use Wings’ equipment or purchase discounted equipment, according to the news release.

The intent is for camp participants to play in the state games, said Sanders, who is also a program manager with Wings Over the Rockies.

The drone soccer training camps cost $485 to participate in, but that includes the purchase of the drone equipment, Sanders said. Cost comes to $300 if participants don’t want to keep the equipment. Discounts are available, Sanders added.

Those interested can register here.

See here for more on the Rocky Mountain State Games.

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