H.S. students deliver bagel — by drone


CONWAY — In one giant leap for breakfast time, a group of CAD III students  in Joe Riddensdale’s class at Kennett High successfully delivered a bagel sandwich from Big Dave’s Bagels to the top of Eagles’ Way via drone on Friday morning.

While it wasn’t quite the same as being in Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville and Wibur Wright made lifted off in the first powered aircraft, or when Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon, but it still was a groundbreaking moment for the local flock of Eagles.

“I believe we’re probably the first in the state to deliver food via a drone,” said Riddensdale, drafting and aviation teacher at KHS, who along with his Computer-Aided Design III students helmed the successful flight.

According to Wikipedia, “civilian UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) now vastly outnumber military UAVs, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.”

In under 15 minutes, the school’s drone delivered a half-pound breakfast sandwich from the shop at the foot of the hill to the rear entrance of Kennett High, where the bagel landed in a box at the feet of Virginia Schrader, director of the MWV Career and Technical Center.

“I heard last year before COVID-19 that somewhere else in the country they did deliver food, but I’m pretty sure we’re the first in New Hampshire,” Riddensdale said. “It’s still pretty neat.”

Riddensdale and the students used the school’s two drones, Snoopy I and Snoopy II, to do a pre-flight planning mission on Thursday with a test run from Big Dave’s Bagels & Deli to the school (a distance of 1.1 miles). The flight was done in 25 mph winds.

The flight from the parking lot at Big Dave’s to the campus took just shy of 14 minutes.

Students Taylor Rothen, Brandon Welch, Katherine Dewhurst, Matt Costantino, Grace Ruddy, Shalin (Sam) Mehta, Owen Cholewa and Cole Siefer each played a key role in the mission, from ground video and photos to recording flight data and being eyes on the sky.

Mehta was behind the controls for the test flight Thursday. On Friday, he used his own personal drone, a Mavic mini (dubbed Woodstock I), to fly about 100 feet above Snoopy I, which was flying at between 150-250 feet to record video below to document the mission.

“We did a checklist (on Thursday), and it worked out pretty well,” said Mehta, a senior.

On Friday, Siefer, a junior, flew Snoopy I with the prized cargo attached, a breakfast sandwich bagel fresh off the grill made by Sue Hausman of Big Dave’s.

“What they’re doing is pretty amazing,” Hausman said. “I wish we did these sorts of things when we were in school.”

With the sandwich carefully wrapped in tinfoil, Riddensdale attached the sandwich to the drone in the parking lot of Big Dave’s on a picturesque blue sky fall morning.

At 11:38 a.m., Snoopy I headed skyward, followed by a convoy of vehicles with students and Riddensdale heading up the mile-long Eagles’ Way to the school campus.

Snoopy I arrived at the school at 11:51 a.m. and hovered over the entrance to the Peter Ames Gymnasium, then slowly descended to where Schrader, Riddensdale and a group of students had gathered. A 3-foot-by-3-foot box was on the ground, and the drone flew to within 8 feet of it. On Riddensdale’s signal, “OK, drop,” Siefer detached his precious cargo.

“Thank you so much,” Schrader said. “Do I tip you?”

“Is it still warm?” Riddensdale asked.

“It is,” Schrader replied. “Guys, you did a great job. It’s incredible. You should pat yourselves on the back.”

“It worked just about perfectly,” Siefer said, adding that there were about two minutes of battery life left in Snoopy I, so he was a little concerned about the flight time. “It was a question at one point if we would have enough battery power.”

Riddensdale said the mission “went just as planned,” adding that on Thursday, due to the wind) “we lost the signal three times. This time, everything went off without a hitch.

“We had a little more weight in the sandwich this time, it feels a little heavier than yesterday’s bagel,” he noted. “Maybe we got double meat this time.”

Schrader is aware of companies such as Amazon that are exploring drone deliveries.

“Maybe this is the next big thing for Big Dave’s,” she said. “We can call in an order and then a drone will deliver to the school.”

Riddensdale said drones can be programmed to set flight paths, and you can also put “a return to home” on the GPS coordinates.

Students and Riddensdale say they have some more drone missions up their sleeves in the near future.

“I can’t wait to see what you do next,” Schrader said. “It’s going to be tough to top this because this was pretty amazing. I still can’t believe you did this. I’m very proud of all of you.”

After breakfast, Schrader said her sandwich was “delicious.”