The NYPD launched a first-of-its-kind drone program in Brooklyn Tuesday night that aims to teach teenagers about tech while also providing them with a fun outlet.
The initiative kicked-off on March 28 inside the NYPD community center at 127 Pennsylvania Ave. and was hosted by the police department’s Youth Strategies Division.
The program, which also includes a game similar to soccer yet played with drones, was greeted with excitement by the teens when police officials unveiled the flying devices.
The initiative is the brainchild of Sgt. Johnny Hines, whose unique curriculum mixes science and e-sports, and provides teenagers with the ability to control the drones in a game much like soccer. According to Hines, the NYPD is the only police department in the country that is running the program, which aims to help guide and teach adolescents about aerodynamics.
Likening the game itself to Quidditch from the popular Harry Potter films, the objective of the game is to fly a drone through a small hole while other drones are used as defenders that attempt to block their foe from scoring.
The game itself is only one part of the experience, however.
Cops also work alongside the kids to build the drones, so the teens not only learn to fly the devices but also shape them from scratch.
“The kids build, fly and code drones – playing with them in a combat sports setting,” Hines explained. “We have got cops and kids on the same team, and they work together to build and fly the drones.”
Hines said the drones are not the only thing being built as part of the program. He said that relationships between the teens and officers are also being cemented, which will hopefully last a lifetime.
“We are all one family,” Hines said with a smile. The program “furthers the relationship between cops and kids…We usually see them playing basketball, but this is STEM and this is a new e-sport.”
Hines believes that this drone soccer game will grow in popularity over the next few years and that the teens will be in the unique position to be at the forefront of a new sport. Currently six teens are participating in the program, but the number is expected to grow to 20.
“They [the kids] didn’t know how to fly at the beginning but now they are doing tricks with the drones,” Hines said.