West Iredell High School student Tyler Ribbeck (right) demonstrates how to hover and fly a drone that is used in drone soccer. He lands the drone in Coach Ben Conklin’s hand.


West Iredell High School is set to officially launch its drone soccer program during the upcoming school year.

“This is unique to West. We are the only school in the region that has it, and proud to have started gathering all the resources this year,” teacher and coach Ben Conklin said.

Drone soccer is a fast-paced air sport that combines drones and soccer inside an inflatable indoor arena.

“It’s a version of soccer and Quidditch if you are familiar with Harry Potter. They have to fly their drones through a metal goal post of the opposing team,” Conklin explained.

Participants first have to build their own mini-drones, which are shaped like miniature basketballs.

“They have to maintain them, repair them and pilot them,” Conklin said.

Drone soccer is typically played by teams of three or five players in three, three-minute rounds. Fostering social interaction and teamwork, it provides opportunities for individuals to engage with teammates and develop and communicate strategies.

During the 2023-2024 school year, a small group of West Iredell High students piloted drone soccer and met twice a week with coaches Conklin and Ryne Cooper.

Student Tony Trifaro said he likes to play drone soccer. Participants learn quickly that the drones can be very sensitive to fly, he said.

“Sometimes when you want it to hover, it won’t fly like you want it to,” he explained.

Another student, Tyler Ribbeck, who is good at offense, maneuvered his drone through the goal post with ease during a demonstration.

Drone soccer provides a means from promoting STEM education and careers as well as teamwork.

“It’s kind of like a hook to get them interested in technology, but the real focus is career based,” Conklin said. “You have all kinds of careers that are using drone technology — in everything from civil engineering to real estate.”

Organizers are creating an opportunity for students to see value in that. Participants will also earn certification as drone pilots.

An educational curriculum is built into the drone soccer program. And the potential to grow the program is great. 

“Our goal is to become a regional hub,” he said. “We want to be able to able to host regional and national competitions for the official drone soccer league.”