Drone bowling strikes up interest in UAS club


Professor Sumey

A college student prepares an unmanned aerial system for flight.

Hannah Wyman, News Editor

Things have been taking flight for Cal U’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Club.

Commonly referred to as the drone club, the UAS Club hosted a drone bowling event last Tuesday, February 18 in the Performance Center. Students paid to test their skills in flying a drone in an attempt to knock down cups. The club offered various prizes for the students who tried their hands at piloting. Sophomore mechatronic major Connor Egan, 20, said that the event was a fundraiser to help raise money for future events.

“We had people come and try to fly drones into little stacks of cups,” said Egan. “It’s a good way to introduce people to drones.”

Newly recognized by the university, the drone club hopes to make a name for itself on campus. In fact, according club president, founder, senior and science and technology multidisciplinary major Andrew Orsini, 24, the UAS degree program itself is new to Cal U. Cal U was one of, if not the very first, university in the United States to have a UAS-specific degree program not based on full-scale pilot licensure in 2017.

While taking UAS classes, Orsini enjoyed the hands-on experience his major offered, yet he recognized that the UAS program didn’t have a club like many other majors do. Because of this, he moved to create the drone club in the fall of 2018.

“We can help each other with the drone program, we can help each other with the classes we have to take required for the drone program,” said Orsini on the benefits of the club. “It’s kind of like a helpful meeting ground. Also, knowing the people that I know in the club, some of them are drone majors. When I get out there and if I do something with drones, I can kind of help them in a way too.”

The club’s advisor Jefferey Sumey is an associate professor in the department of applied engineering and technology. To Sumey, starting a new club from scratch is always a challenge, but working with the original group of UAS majors that founded the club and the current membership and officers has proven it worthwhile.

“It is no secret that students thrive on being able to contribute and participate regardless of their level of completion in an academic program,” said Sumey. “And faculty, at least I for one, thrive on the student’s excitement with learning and involvement… I give tremendous credit to the current club officers who have been doing a great job fanning the flames and growing the club.”

Though the club is still solidifying its presence on campus, the drone club has seen an increase in membership from last year to this current school year. This semester, the club boasts around 20 members, many active and willing to help with events more than ever.

“We’ve had some struggles and issues, mostly just not being ready for competitions and not being organized,” said Egan. “But we’re slowly improving, and we’ve had a few events so far this year that have been successful.”

Together, members learn how to operate different unmanned aircraft systems, build drones, attend various competitions, and plan on-campus events for other students, such as drone bowling.

One event currently in the works focuses on high school students. Slated to take place in Gallagher Hall on March 28, the club and its members are inviting high schools to Cal U to host a drone competition. The idea behind the event is to let high schoolers experience what can be done with drone technology through racing, weightlifting, obstacle courses and an impairment demonstration. The club is also pursuing an entry in a collegiate competition run by the Ohio Space Grant Consortium.

Vice president junior Angela VanGorder, 21, is part of both the mechatronics and UAS programs at Cal U. She believes there are many benefits to joining the drone club.

“People should get involved because you can make new friends [and] learn how to fly a drone,” said VanGorder.

According to Sumey, having fun isn’t the only reason to get involved. There is also a growing demand for drone technology within the National Airspace System and drone application and incorporation it will create untold opportunities in nearly every segment of society.

“My hopes for the UAS Club are that it will continue to grow and foster participation in competition events as well as host events at Cal U, and to continue dovetailing with our UAS curricula,” said Sumey.

As for the near future, Orsini said that he would also like the club grow and help give others the option to gain hands-on experience. He said that people can just go to drone club events and enjoy them because they’re different and “not something everyone gets to do all the time.”

“Like I said… about half of the people in the club aren’t even part of the major but they come, and they were having fun [at the event],” said Orsini. “I don’t think you fly drones in you spare time. This is something that gives new experience to people.”

Though still young, it looks like it’s clear skies ahead for the UAS club and its members. To become involved, attend drone club meetings in Helsel Hall 141 every Thursday at 11 a.m.