At last year’s Commercial UAV Expo, as part of the Korean Pavilion, the Korea Drone Soccer Association (KDSA) showcased one of the emerging sports in Asia and worldwide. Using drones encased in a round, protective “exoskeleton,” players attempt to fly their team’s “striker drone” through elevated hoops to score goals. The sport, which has been around since 2017, has gained popularity and is spreading to other countries around the world, including the United States

On that front, Hollywood Drones exhibited at this year’s edition of the Commercial UAV Expo, and just last December they signed a contract to bring drone soccer to parts of California as a member of FIDA, the Federation of International Dronesoccer Association. Sean Greenhalgh, the head pilot for Hollywood Drones, spoke with Commercial UAV News about their drone soccer initiative, which is not just about bringing the “future sport” to the United States, but also introducing children to the technology.

Greenhalgh relays quick success for the company in bringing this technology to kids, noting that “it hasn’t even been a full year yet [since the contract was signed], and we’ve hit the ground running.” Greenhalgh and the rest of the team is working with school districts in Southern California and bringing kids as young as four into the world of drones and giving them an opportunity to learn the technology in a fun and interactive way.

Examples of drone soccer equipment of different sizes for different ages

In addition to working with some of these local school distrcits, the team also collaborates with summer and winter camps as well as after school programs. These are generally five-week courses in which they are able to teach anywhere from 300 to 500 students per day, allowing them experience in many different aspects of drone technology. Greenhalgh said, “Start to finish we'll have shown them how to start the motors, fly through an obstacle course and land the drone, all on their own.”

On top of that, during the actual games – which consist of three three-minute rounds – there are times where a drone may crash and break. That’s where even more education about the technology comes in. “The cool hidden aspect of it is if your drone breaks one of the rounds, you have a five minute period to do the repairs on it to be ready for the next round,” Greenhalgh explains. “So not only are you building the experience and even the flight hours, you're learning how to do the maintenance repairs, and adding more tools to your tool belt.”

It’s not just drone soccer that the group teaches either, as there are all kinds of drone-based sports they are using to introduce children to the emerging technology in fun and interactive ways. Along with drone soccer, they also feature drone basketball, drone bowling, and drone golf. It’s an exciting way to not only get children introduced to and excited about drones, but also getting children involved who might otherwise not be in other activities. As Greenhalgh told Commercial UAV News, “Not every student wants to play football or soccer. This is a way to get students involved in this sport, and they can get a career out of it.”

While the team’s current focus is in Southern California near their home base in Palm Springs, they certainly have plans and desires to expand further in the coming years. Greenhalgh noted that they have a partnership with American Legion and that they are working on getting their units into each American Legion base. Additionally, he said, “We are looking for people to branch out and do what we’re doing and join FIDA. They can start doing what we’re doing in all the other school districts in the United States and Canada.”