• In 2016, CNY Drones introduced the concept of providing a low-cost, annually themed, indoor Team Drone Challenge to students (age 11+) to help spark interest in New York State’s drone education & employment pipeline.
  • Development assistance, location of a host site & backing took time, eventually leading to collaboration with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute student club, SUNY AMA / AMA University Model Aviation Student Club #15104.
  •  Six teams competed in April 2018 at the SUNY Utica Campus for RIG RESCUE, our first annual event.  

Our 2019 Challenge is Forest Fury!

17 Teams from 11 schools are registered to compete!


  • To encourage more students to explore STEM fields by offering a low-cost, high-impact, open competition, attractive to inner-city & rural populations!
  • To encourage students to consider the emerging drone technology education and employment options available in our region as well as other regions experiencing drone technology growth!


  • Preceded by research & discussions with STEM groups across the US
  • A key factor was emphasized repeatedly by our contacts – recognizable connection to the region’s technology
  • Prevalent in other successful STEM-focused competitions, a themed, multi-element format was followed
  • Created by a diverse volunteer group of engineers, educators & drone enthusiasts through CNY Drones in the Utica/Rome, NY area, surrounding the NYS Drone Test Corridor
  • Designed to be fun, exciting & challenging for teams of all abilities!


  • Mission elements are created keeping in mind the eight practices of science and engineering identified by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, a blueprint for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • Elements are presented on a netted 30’x60′ field to help provide a safe flying environment for participants & spectators
  • We follow safety guidelines in line with the Academy of Model Aeronautics
  • Missions very from simple to complex to give new teams as much opportunities as more seasoned teams
  • Points are scored by successfully completing as many of the task-based missions within a pre-determine timed “flight” of 5 minutes – best flight of 3 is used for scoring
  • The points are based on the complexity of the flight missions.


  • Competition for ages 11+
  • 2 to 5 Flight Crew Members on a field per flight, 3 Flights – No team size limit!
  • 10-12 teams per competition field
  • Low-cost registration, equipment & season
  • Indoor competition avoids weather issues
  • Relevant, annually themed challenge
  • STEM-focused elements target knowledge areas
  • Workshops (in-person & virtual) help new teams get started
  • Networked team coaches for newcomer guidance & shared learning!
  • Not limited to schools! – school teams, after school programs, community groups, home school groups, clubs, family & friends – all are welcome in our OPEN competition!
Use drones to tackle real-world issues using problem solving skills, applied science & math, engineering, research & creativity!


  • Our challenge currently targets middle & high school aged students
  • We remain an OPEN competition for ALL groups with team members age 11+
  • With 3 flights per team, up to 15 students can participate as field crew
  • Most teams will be high school level – although college teams are welcome!
  • We encourage college groups to contact us as interest is growing for a collegiate level!


  • We encourage the community to help us support a team for the 2019 Forest Fury Competition.  Scholarship for a single team is $500 and includes a drone kit, radio controller, FPV goggles & competition fee.
  •  If you would like to join us in meeting this goal or if can suggest a team in need, contact us!


  • We’re already planning to announce an agriculture-based themed, FARM-i-GEDDON for our 2020 Challenge!
  • We’re establishing connections with groups such as Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as local farmers & drone tech companies working in the agricultural field
  • For 2021 we’re looking forward to an urban theme with increased interest from inner-city teams & sponsoring organizations


 2018 Rig Rescue Season  – SUNY AMA Competition April 15, 2018

     2019 Forest Fury Season  – SUNY AMA Dual Field Competition April 7, 2019

      2020 FARM-i-GEDDON – Competition(s) April 2020

2021 Urban Themed – METRO-MELTDOWN – Competition(s) April 2021

2022  Theme TBA  (send us your ideas!) – Competition(s) April 2021


  • We welcome new ideas, new mentors, new volunteers and especially – new teams  – as we grow from Central New York into other regions!
  • We’re also happy to connect coaches/teachers to share their drone program experiences.
  • Your ideas are important to us!    Share your thoughts on how we can improve!  Contact us!