A Different Kind of Race

Molly Andrews, Arts & Community Writer

The University of North Dakota held its first Collegiate Drone Racing Championship in the High Performance Center this weekend.


Students from across the nation came to campus to compete for the champion title.


This event was put on by the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems. RIAS is dedicated to providing autonomous technologies as well as policies that serve our community and society.


Mark Askelson, Ph.D is the lead of the Autonomous Platforms focus area. He has over 10 years of experience with unmanned aircraft systems. He alongside many other organizations on campus worked together to make this event happen. Some of which included athletics, marketing and communications, legal counsel, aviation and the key player was the UND Aerospace R/C club.


“People across campus came together to make this happen,” Askelson said.


There were a lot of moving parts to this event and they only had three short months to plan and execute it. Although he wishes they had more time to get everything in order, he is still pleased with the outcome. Askelson expressed how the idea for this event came from the top and expressed how President Mark Kennedy saw value in events like this.


The R/C club has been on campus for awhile and is a student-run organization on campus. David Karolinski is a student at UND who is also a member of the club. He got introduced to drones this fall when he arrived on campus. The club gives members a chance to try many different types of aircrafts. This is his first time at a collegiate drone competition.


“I wanted to sit there and take in everything and learn more before I go head first racing,” Karolinski said.


Although Karolinski is not racing, he is there supporting UND on the sidelines.


In order to participate to in the championship, racers have to qualify. There were five racers for the UND team this past weekend. In order for them to be chosen to represent the team, they were placed in a simulator and whoever had the fastest times were picked. Among the racers is Julian ‘JJ’ Burrill. He is a sophomore studying commercial aviation and unmanned aircraft systems. He has been operating drones since he was 10 years old.


“I kinda watched technology progress from step one all the way up to where we are today which is leaps and bounds greater,” Burrill said.


Although Burrill has had over nine years of experience with aircrafts, he still gets nervous before races. He has been practicing this course on a simulator for months and has every twist and turn memorized.


The Collegiate Drone Racing Championship is a first for UND but is an exciting addition to the campus community.


“I think events like this really give some exposure as to what R/C club is, the Robohawks team as well as the UMA degree here at UND,” Burrill said.


If you are interesting in joining R/C club, be sure to look them up on the UND website. The club is open to all majors and meets every Sunday at 2 pm.