Drone technology in the classroom

From Scott Buell, Founder and CEO, Drone Legends

Every time something new, innovative or high-tech comes into the picture, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) community gets excited.

Because any day we get an opportunity to facilitate hands-on learning experiences is a really good day indeed.

Here’s a general timeline of drones in education:

  • 2014 – Recreational drones were on the market and sometimes used on sports fields for out-of-class learning experiences, specifically focused on mathematics and engineering for upper grade schoolers.
  • 2015 – Drone technology was refined, and prices began to drop, which made drones much easier for schools to get their hands on, albeit with low adoption rates at first.
  • 2016-2017 – Drones in education launched (pun intended) worldwide, with college research departments, business development clubs, and more using them on a more regular basis.
  • 2018 – Drones started showing up as a regularly featured part of education technology (Edtech), and were increasingly used both outdoors and indoors, especially as they became safer.
  • 2019 – Drones were firmly established as a key way to teach kids grades K-12 important STEM skills (in the USA), especially targeted for computer programming, photography, and STEM career prep.
  • 2020-2021 – Drones in schools are everywhere: older students are getting FAA certifications, robotics students are building their own drones, and kids as young as kindergarten are using drone STEM curriculum (like Drone Legends) to program and operate drones.

Outside of education, drones have been readily and thoroughly assimilated into operations for industries from real estate to medicine to supply chain management.

For school administrators and educators, a point that must be proven not just once but over and over again is that drones are safe for the classroom. Regulatory agencies have recognised the importance of confirming this, and all of the major players worldwide have created guidelines.

Drone Educational Users

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency that regulates unmanned aerial systems technology in the USA acknowledges that “Drones (and model aircraft) are great tools for use in education.”

Drones can, and are, being used to support the full scope of STEAM learning:

  • Science and drones — Drones are being used every day worldwide to support the cause of science, like the ones being used to monitor rivers or perform geoscientific research. For kids, the physics behind drones is a powerful science learning opportunity. Physical science at every level is on display as kids observe the way drones are operated, and how they adhere to the laws of nature.
  • Technology and drones — Kids will get to see the relevance of drones and the future of technology every day, as drones are used to manage farms, deliver packages, in search and rescue missions, for firefighting, and even for monitoring traffic. Interacting with sophisticated technology, that comes with a reference guide in the form of our Operational Manual, is a great way to introduce kids to new kinds of tech.
  • Engineering and drones — Pretty straightforward: drones are engineered machines. They are built using an engineering design process and contain mechanisms that perform different functions. Everything about a drone is an illustration of a foundational engineering concept, and the process of planning and executing missions (the using of drones) supports valuable critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills.
  • Art and drones — Drones got their popular start in videography, and art is an essential component of a comprehensive STEM education. We’ve seen some of our Drone Legends go on to create videography businesses, using drones to create and edit movies. Aerial drone photography and videography is a growing field, and one that offers learners of all ages an opportunity to express themselves.
  • Mathematics and drones — Drones make mathematics fun, and that includes mathematics of all kinds: geometry, numbers, algebra, you name it — calculations are an inherent part of making a drone function. This is a great opportunity to get even the kids who “don’t like maths” in on the fun, because they need to flex those computational abilities to get the drone off the ground.

Drone Safety Standards

At Drone Legends, we are safety-first kinds of people, especially when it comes to kids. You can be assured that our curriculum and every drone mission is built with kids’ safety in mind. Our standards-aligned STEM curriculum books guide children through problem-solving adventures, teaching them how to code and operate drones. We have safety recommendations every step of the way, with built-in checkpoints to ensure every user knows what they need to do to offer optimal protection.

Here is a handy checklist to keep drones in the classroom safe:

  • Be sure you have a drone that is approved for use in your classroom or facility.
  • Have a designated operator to oversee the drone at all times.
  • Maintain a visual line of sight at all times.
  • Be sure all regular classroom safety practices are in place, such as making sure nothing heavy is stacked very high or that there are hazards present.
  • Don’t leave students alone with drones in the classroom.
  • Be sure students understand how to operate drones and are taught before they try.

FAQs About Classroom Drone Safety

Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions about classroom drone safety. We’ll use USA standards to answer these questions, but most of what we will relay here applies in any area of the world.

How Can Drones be Used in a Classroom?

Drones are used in classrooms around the world to reinforce STEM learning. Drone clubs in school, drone classes in school, drone after-school enrichment programs, and more are being offered in virtually every location globally. This is because drones are fun and they are an immensely useful tool for capturing the imagination of elementary school age learners (plus junior highschoolers, highschoolers, college students and adults).

Can Drones be Flown Over Schools?

Regulations vary depending on where you live. Drones flying over the schools are generally not allowed, which is a good thing for security and privacy reasons. Drones flying in schools is a totally different point of consideration. The drones used for education are exceedingly light: nothing like the heavy-duty ones used for commercial or industrial purposes. When aligned with regulatory guidelines, drones can offer students with great hands-on learning experiences.

What are the Risks of Drones?

Drones present a few risks in the world at large: they can compromise privacy or even injure someone if flown recklessly. All of the national or countrywide standards set in place by regulatory agencies aim to mitigate this risk, ensuring that people who fly drones for recreational purposes do no harm.

The risk of drones in the classroom could be something getting knocked over, or someone getting bumped. Drones that are approved from classroom use are light enough to do very little harm even if that happens. When drones are flown in the classroom, they must be lightweight and children should always use goggles or other protective elements to keep them totally safe.

Drones in Class are Here to Stay

Drones in class are here to stay. Educators have seen the value of using drones to teach STEM skills, bring kids together, enhance enrichment programs, and more. When operated in accordance with regulatory guidelines, there is very little risk of drones ever causing harm. As with anything, be sure you do it right, and it’ll have a ton of great rewards.

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