• 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 with 16 teams set 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!