Quadcopter Challenge finalists inspire rapid responders 

Drone design competition steers future generation to STEM careers

This year's winners were the Interceptors, a group from St. Margaret's Academy in Livingston, Scotland, that put on a gripping display of drone agility and speed.

“It feels amazing to win,” said Alex, a member of the winning team. “We stayed after school nearly every single day, came to school early on a couple of days, and now we know it’s been worth it… there were a ton of great teams out there, but we came [out] on top.”

The annual ‘design, build and fly’ schools competition, run by RTX STEM ambassadors, challenged pupils to adapt a basic quadcopter design to meet rapid response provider needs and safety.

“I’m delighted with this result,” said Sam Hutton, RTX STEM ambassador and STEM site lead for Glenrothes & Livingston, who mentored the winning team throughout.

“They were immediately engaged, from their brilliant entry presentation to their performances in the regional and final heats. They smashed it and overcame technical challenges. I’ve seen their confidence grow unbelievably which makes me proud and I hope that they explore STEM careers in the future.”

Valuable assets

Drones are valuable in emergency response because they can survey hard-to-reach areas quickly, collect data and provide real-time situational awareness.

The pupils attended RTX-hosted workshops where they learned how to build and fly their quadcopters safely, how to work as a team, and how UK aviation regulations affect the way drones are allowed to operate.

“[The Challenge] is not just focused on the engineering difficulties, but [also] how they behave as a team,” said Alex Rose-Parfitt, director of engineering at Raytheon UK.

“It teaches them about financial management. It teaches them about if things go wrong, how do you adapt and work together to fix problems quickly so that you can get the aircraft flying again and complete the challenges.”

Having students engage with Quadcopters allow them to explore the fun side of STEM and bolster ambitions of entering the defence and aerospace sector. 
- Alex Rose-Parfitt, director of engineering

The competition was a source of inspiration and ideas for rapid responders who attended – many of whom are trying to keep pace with how drones are used in their daily work.

“It’s such a rapidly developing field,” said Bill Dziadkiewicz from the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service, one of the VIP guests that included Lincolnshire Police and the Lincolnshire-based medical first responder organisation, LIVES.

“Events like this take the theory and [apply it] in the context of real organisations, such as the emergency services,” he added.


The winning team gather on stage with their certificates and trophy 

Quad Squad: St. Margaret's Academy were crowned winners of the 2023 Quadcopter Challenge



Inspiring the next generation into STEM roles

Michael Scragg, a paramedic from LIVES, was impressed by the pupils’ innovative designs and their enthusiasm for the Challenge.

“These children are the future. If we don't evolve, as a nation, we will stagnate and fall behind. If we can guide [them] into [STEM] industries, the sky’s the limit and they can do anything,” he said.

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teams participated in the 2023 Quadcopter Challenge
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students mentored to date since 2015

“The RTX Quadcopter Challenge continues to serve as a pivotal platform for encouraging innovation and teamwork,” said Rose-Parfitt. “Having students engage with Quadcopters allow them to explore the fun side of STEM and bolster ambitions of entering the defence and aerospace sector.” 

Interceptor team-mates Bo and Alex agree.

“I’ve always thought about becoming an engineer but now I’m more engaged [in] it,” said Alex.

For Bo, the experience was “really, really fun” and has presented a vocational area she had not considered. “It’s definitely something that I would like to do in the future as a job.” 

A member of the winning team accepts their trophy 

Future Talent: Bo from The Interceptors collects her trophy 


RTX employee Millie Francis-Owen is a great example of how the Quadcopter Challenge is positively shaping young people’s futures. Millie took part in the Challenge aged 15 and credits this experience for giving her the confidence to pursue a mechanical and engineering pathway to apprenticeship course at college.

Now aged 19, Millie is an engineering apprentice at Raytheon UK’s Broughton site. She’s even sat on the judging panel of the Challenge, bringing her quadcopter journey full-circle and her successes keep rolling. Millie was recently named Wales’ 2023 Apprentice Engineer of the Year.

“You never know what the future holds,” said Millie, “and it turns out my future started at the Challenge.”