Apr. 7—Confidence, communication and consistent practice helped the NJROTC Drone Team at Brunswick High School earn third place at the recent Area-12 Drone Championship.
The team competed against 12 other schools at the championship, held in McDonough.
They qualified for the region meet by winning second place at a prior competition.
The drone team at Brunswick High began participating in competitions only two years ago, said retired Senior Chief Mahendra Jatindranath, naval science instructor at Brunswick High.
The cadets attributed their success this year to steady practice and focused skill building.
The team has practiced at least twice weekly throughout the season and will pick back up next school year.
Gabriel Chia, a senior at BHS who has been on the drone team several years, said he’s seen the team improve significantly each year.
Competitions are challenging because the cadets do not know what the obstacle courses and other events will look like. They get only a brief glance when they arrive at each drone meet.
“Every place you go there are four events, the same challenges, but the courses are laid out totally different,” Jatindranath said. “So you can’t really prepare for any particular course. Now, when you get there, you get a quick walk-through of what the course is, so the kids have a few seconds to strategize about how to approach the course.”
Chia said the team always arrived with a confident mindset.
Communication and good teamwork are vital skills at these meets, and the team developed those skills through their consistent practicing.
“When we get there, we have a mission and a goal,” Chia said. “Our mission and goal is to go in there and win.”
The four events at each competition are an obstacle course, a rotor head race, a flight deck landing and an non-flight officer (NFO) contest.
The obstacle course is a one person event that requires a mastery of speed and precision, said Cadet Camillo Rojas.
“You want to take the drone and get through all the obstacles as fast as you can, and try not to hit anything and mess anything up,” he said.
The NFO contest is a two-cadet event during which one person flies the drone with his or her back to the course, while their teammate calls out directions.
“That’s very challenging, because now everything’s reversed and you can’t see anything,” Jatindranath said.
The rotor head race, a four-person event, is like a relay race that focuses on speed and precision. And the flight deck event requires cadets to land their drone on a specific target, which at some competitions may not be stationary.
Chia said he’s proud of what the team achieved this year.
“We really improved, and I’m really happy with the goals we’ve had and what we did to achieve our goals,” he said.