For athletic teams the importance of proper hydration cannot be overstated. But sometimes, in the heat of competition, athletes will not make water intake a priority.
“Players get distracted and they forget to hydrate while they’re playing,” says Christine Mitchell, the athletic trainer at La Jolla Country Day School. “The big game is coming up. They’re thinking about what their coach is saying. They’re not thinking about hydrating, they’re thinking about their plays.”
If only there was some way to grab the attention of players on the field and get them to hydrate. Hey, a drone might work!
“They notice them,” said Torreys head football coach Tyler Hales. “That probably wouldn’t be a bad little signal to drink up some water.”
The Design and Innovation Program at La Jolla Country Day presented a challenge, with the help of the CamelBak water company: find a way to improve “Team Hydration.” The research started immediately.
“There was an abundance of water on the sidelines,” says senior Andrew Smith. “The bench players could drink as much water as they needed to. The players on the field that were actually doing the hard work had no way to get water immediately.”
“We really went through a very exhaustive process,” says senior Tomas Miralles. “There were a lot of silly ideas.”
Those included a water bottle cannon and a shirt filled with water. Eventually they landed on an idea they thought was silly at first.
“The best way we came up with was to attach a water bottle to the drone and have a hose coming down and let the athlete drink from it directly,” says Smith.
And the Hydrone was born.
With updated water bottle designs, the inventors believe they can add up to five hoses so multiple players can drink at once. Of course, something like this creates several safety concerns. The Hydrone has propeller guards to keep fingers from getting lopped off. The design also includes a way to keep it from landing on anyone’s head.
“We have a system where, if you pull too hard on the hose, the hose just detaches and the drone won’t come crashing down on you,” says Smith.
Of course, common sense also plays a role here.
“Don’t go grab the thing. That’s really it.”
So what about bad weather? Sudden wind gusts are common at places like Chicago’s Soldier Field in November. Improved drone technology might help there.
“With automatic stabilizers in the flight computer for the drone it could easily combat sudden gusts of wind.”
Having a drone purposefully fly over your head can be a bit intimidating but the athletes they’ve tested it on don’t seem to have a problem drinking from a drone.
“It’s definitely not something you experience every day,” said Torreys lacrosse player David Kunczynski. “Once I got the tube in my hand, it was pretty straightforward but seeing that thing fly towards you, it was definitely intimidating.”
This innovation has the support of the high school kids. But how about the adults who have to look out for their safety? Even they are open to what seems like a revolutionary idea.
“I think it’s a good idea,” says Mitchell. “I think it’s a fun idea. I think kids are in love with drones right now. I think that it could work really well but it has some kinks to work out. A player has to be able to call it correctly. If a player is interrupting practice to get water because the drones are kind of loud, then that could be a negative aspect of it. But, how cool would a team feel if they were getting their water delivered to them by a drone? It’s got a definite cool factor.”
“If it’s something that’s going to help hydrate the guys and help keep the guys safe then yeah, I have no problem with it,” says Hales. “That’s what we’re all about as coaches, is how can we do things more efficiently? So it’s something I would definitely be open to, for sure.”
Smith and Miralles have already started the process of patenting The Hydrone. They’re both heading off to college in the fall but still have big plans for their brainchild.
“Ideally, it would be implemented in every soccer game and football game there would be,” says Miralles. “Maybe in a couple years’ time, we’ll get back together and figure it out and work it out.”
And if some day he sees The Hydrone bringing water to players at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football?
“It would be crazy to think that our crazy high school idea would come to this huge stage and be something that would be implemented worldwide.”
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the students earned an A on this project. It’s not ready for use on athletic fields yet but they are still exploring the options for their new invention, which they were able to take up to CamelBak and present in person.
The company said they’re not quite ready for something this revolutionary but certainly have something to think about for the future.