The Drone Effect

The Drone Effect


Jun 7th, 2017

Will Nickley of Safety Third Racing aims to “[inspire] the next generation of thinkers and dreamers through interactive aero-robotics programming at the Idea Foundry.” In everyday terms -  he builds, races and teaches classes about drones, specifically First Person View (FVP) racing drones. At any given time you can catch Will at Idea Foundry, 3D printing his newly improved drone frames or designing his next drone flight class. If you're lucky though, you’ll catch him piloting his custom FPV nano drone through the 2nd floor of the Idea Foundry.

It is remarkable to watch this drone in flight - no bigger than a hockey puck and lighter that an empty soda can - whip around corners and buzz across the mezzanine. Makers in the building have come to know the hallmark of a drone in flight, which is the distinct sound of furiously whirling propellers and spectators gasping in awe.

Will designs and redesigns the racers he uses in class, using his workshop and classroom experiences with students to refine “user requirements” for the next iteration of the S3 Ninja Star drone frame (available to download for free on Thingiverse here).

“As my student pilots started inevitably breaking their frames, I wanted to provide a better nano-FPV frame to meet the needs of a student pilot. Having access to 3D printers at the Idea Foundry, I set out developing a new nano-FPV frame from the ground up.”

More crashes mean more diagnostic and problem-solving work to get the drones back up in the air. That means each version of the drone frame needs to be more durable, lightweight, and easier for students to work on. Will uses sketching, 3D modeling, and 3D printing at Idea Foundry to explore and test new design iterations within a matter of hours.

Ultimately, each new frame becomes just a small piece in a larger, drone-building puzzle - not only do students enjoy the thrills of FPV drone flight, they also learn a variety of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) skills as they build, fly, crash and fix their own drones.

“That’s the impact I’d really like to make -,” says Will, “to help inspire the next generation of makers, engineers, scientists, humans to tackle challenging problems, unafraid of new technology or failure. If you can crash and repair a drone and solve a fun challenge in the classroom today, you can use new technologies to make it to Mars or solve Climate Change or fight for what you believe tomorrow.”

Teaching others about drones is more than a unique hobby, it’s instilling the fundamentals of problem solving and engineering in the next generations of makers. You can check out some of Will’s classes with the Idea Foundry at the links below. Everyone is welcome is join our public drone races. All ages are welcome as spectators or pilots.

Drones 101: Jump into the exciting world of aero-robotics with Drones 101: S3 Nano Flying Experience! This is only the beginning...

Drones 201: Build and take-home your very own Nano-sized First-Person-View (FPV) Racing Drone! 

For more info on Safety Third Racing programs contact or for custom Idea Foundry programing contact for details.