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.”
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.
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.