Everything You Wanted to Know About Drones in the Classroom

Katie Vidal
Katie Vidal
22 Jul 2022
Everything you wanted to know about drones in the classroom Q&A

Drones are one of the fastest growing technologies in the world and schools are looking at how they can incorporate them into their classrooms and clubs.  

She Maps recently had the privilege of running a Q&A session with Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS).  We asked schools to think of all the unanswered questions they had about drones in the classroom. 

The panel consisted of:

  • Shelley Waldon, Science & STEM Lead, Catholic Education Services
  • Katie Vidal, Certified She Maps Instructor
  • Jules Blundell, General Manager, She Maps

Below is the recording of the Q&A session, and we’ve extrapolated the questions and added more context below.  Each question has been time-stamped in the video so that it can be easily viewed           

Why should schools be teaching drones? (1:35)

It is STEM by stealth, students are engaged and they are exploring different aspects of the STEM curriculum with a technology that is operating across so many industries. They are interdisciplinary. She Maps creates resources that not only cover Digital Technologies but also Geography, Science, Maths and of course Design Technologies. 

Drones help to encourage the development of 21st-century skills.  Students become Sophisticated problem solvers, Talented creative thinkers, Educated digital natives and Mindful Collaborators (STEM).  This is what our Classroom Drone Essentials program provides for students, but also a PD for teachers so they gain confidence to organise and run their own programs. 

STEM is more than Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

She Maps STEM re imagined
Click the image above to download the infographic.

What are some of the areas we can do some rigorous ticking off of the curriculum? (4:00)

She Maps always starts with curriculum!

The obvious learning area is digital technologies and drones are a different option for understanding visual (block coding) and general-purpose programming (script coding, ie Python and Java).  But you can use drones in other learning areas too.  

For example, using as a topic in Geography – especially for inquiry learning. A She Maps unit of work – Drones to the Rescue looks at Landforms and Landscapes and Water in the World for Years 7 and 8 in the Australian Curriculum. 

Science allows your students to look at the physics of drones, momentum, thrust and how a drone stays in the air.  An example is testing how long a hovering drone would take to fall from different heights, we advise you not to test this with your drone, but to use the free-fall formula or an online calculator. The inquiry process in science can also be applied to this activity.

Drones can take a concept like 3D coordinate planes off the page and create a motivating and interesting set of lessons to explore this concept.  It also means that students can develop more mature drone skills.

Studying drones as 3-dimensional figures also creates mathematical inquiry that explores geometric figures and how they influence design.

Other learning areas such as English can use drone photography to inspire creative writing and Media arts can use drones to help explore and learn about exploring camera angles.

How do we select the best drones for our purposes? (8:03)

There are many different drones out there, but we have done the research for you and believe that we have a drone that meets the needs of the classroom teacher.

Tello EDU – These are appropriate for Years 5-8 students as part of an indoor program. Take a look at Can I Fly My Drone Indoors?  They are stable and easy for students to control.  The Tellos have sensors that pick up patterns on the floor and allow the drone to stabilise itself.  If they can’t pick up the patterns on the floor,  they will drift. Take a look at inventive troubleshooting of low-light rooms with dark carpets!

CDE packs

It does have a forward-facing camera that allows the drone to capture both video and still images.  She Maps even uses this camera for aerial surveys.  Although we had to find a 3D printed attachment to help create the downward-facing camera that allows you to select the visual data.  

We recommend that if you are starting a drone program in your high school, you introduce all students to microdrones first so they have confidence and understanding when they start to fly bigger drones.

The Coding Aspect of Drones (14:30)

Tello EDUs are microdrones, but they pack a lot of capability.  Not only can you block code these drones, but they are also able to understand general-purpose programming such as Python and Java. 

There are 2 apps that we recommend. At the base level, we have the Tello EDU app.

She Maps tello edu logo

The Tello EDU app is a FREE building block system that allows you to move the drone autonomously with visual programming.  It starts with basic movements but allows students to develop more advanced skills using loop functions as well as coordinate plane and curve blocks.  It has a simple simulator for testing code and beginner pilots  can be using this within a matter of minutes. 

she maps drone education droneblocks 1

Droneblocks provides teachers and students with the ability to learn Blockly, Python, Open-CV, Node.js, and JavaScript by coding autonomous missions in the classroom using the Tello drone.  The DroneBlocks app is a drag-and-drop system. This leads to DroneBlocks Code where students can take the next step with general-purpose coding.

The simulators that are available allow the pilot to test code before they apply to the real drone. You would never fly new code without testing it first, that is asking for a drone fail!

What risk analysis is required before flying with drones? (16:31)

The Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) has certified the She Maps program, and we have created the risk analysis that goes along with it and the drone policy.  We have created a system that minimises the risk to students, teachers and drones. When a She Maps professional development is presented to a school there are specific ways of running these sessions, some of the sections that are included are:

  • Classroom setup
  • Safety regulations for pilots
  • Student management
  • Drone and battery management

Drones can be expensive, how can we justify the cost involved? (18:15)

Here are a few suggestions for how to get involved with drones on a budget.

  1. Drone club package – 2-3 drones + Drone Club kit.  This includes 30 different drone activities, with 10 activities that you don’t need a drone to complete.   You can use this kit as part of a STEM Club or even as a stand-alone club and as the students become more engaged then your fellow staff will see how valuable they are and budget considerations could be made.

  2. Grants – we want to help schools write their grant applications. We know that it can be tricky to find the time to fill out all the documents and we want to take that off your hands. If you are looking for a grant or you have found one, please get in touch with us

If we have drones, where can we find teacher training and support? (20:21)

Classroom Drone Essentials – Online Together is our online professional learning community for teachers.  Through 3 X zoom sessions teachers learn about how to set up their drones, what the rules and regulations are for flying microdrones indoors, all CASA approved, classroom management, resource selection, identifying the right program for your school and creating confidence in teachers using drones in their classroom.

Our She Maps Membership that comes as part of your Online Together PD is the online learning platform that provides teachers with units of work, case studies, posters, video demonstrations, presentations on the world of drones and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  This includes:

  • Classroom Drone Essentials – our foundation program for intoridcing students to drones.  It has examples of drones in the industry, the roles and responsibilities of being a pilot, manual and coded flight skills.

  • Map My School – In this unit, students will be required to locate, collect and validate data from a range of sources, manipulate and interpret data to draw conclusions and present their findings and arguments using data and information to share their views in either digital or non-digital forms, including maps that conform to cartographic conventions to support decisions.

  • Drones to the Rescue – These Geography based units look at Bushfires (Year 5-8) and Floods (Yr 7-8).  They look at the impact of these natural disasters and how geographic information systems (GIS) and drones are used in the recovery missions once the it is time to clean up and fix the damage.

  • Code, Fly, Deliver – This unit of work covers a number of learning areas, Digital and Design Technologies, Literacy, HASS, Economics and Business, and walks the students through building an entrepreneurial business case, following the exact same steps, as Australia’s leading drone delivery business, Swoop Aero would follow to launch a new drone delivery network.

Do we need a Remote Pilot’s Licence (RePL)? (23:45)

Take a look at the following blog Remote Pilot License (RePL) – Do I need this certification to fly drones to help you understand whether you need to get your RePL or not.

The short answer is no, you do not need a RePL if you are teaching students to fly drones in a school setting.  

What does Geospatial mean? (25:25)

Geospatial refers to data that has a geographic or locational component.  This type of data is collected by Geospatial technology such as:

  • Remote sensing – Remote sensing allows us to examine distant objects or surfaces using their reflectance properties using various methods. This includes electromagnetic impulses (including visible, infrared, and microwave channels), filmed or digital areal imagery from piloted and non-piloted vehicles (e.g., aeroplanes and drones), radars and lidars to calculate the distance with radio or light signals correspondingly.

  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)  – This relies on triangulation, as the name suggests it relies on the calculation ground of 3 sources. Many GPS will actually use 4 sources to minimise error and to be more accurate.  Many students have already been in interacting with GPS using Google maps.

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) In order to create a single, comprehensive system, GIS, one type of geospatial technology, combines geographical and non-spatial data, remote sensing imagery, and GPS data points. Users can gather, organise, and analyse the necessary data on a variety of layers, such as height, flora types, forest health, roads, water bodies, animals, etc.

Geospatial Science is about collecting data about the world. How can students find this data? (27:15)

Students can access and use data from a range of sources:

  • Research Data Australia – Research Data Australia is a web-based discovery tool created to increase the exposure of Australian research data collections in search engines and to enable extensive links between data, projects, researchers, and institutions.

  • Geonadir the world’s first central repository for storing and managing Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) drone data. By bringing drone images into one place, we know we can multiply the power of the data for our collective wisdom.
    This central repository provides a data rich solution for quantifying environmental trends over space and time. It can fuel a new era of data-driven environmental policy and management decisions, enabling us to solve the world’s most intractable climate problems and save at-risk ecosystems.

  • Scribble Maps – Is a free online mapping tool that does not require registration.  Students can set placemarks, add photos, and a variety of sketching tools are just a few of the capabilities available. The produced maps can be exported as JPG files or KMLs and stored to be worked on at a later time.

  • StoryMaps – Using the map maker students can create custom maps to enhance their digital storytelling. Add text, photos, and videos to your existing ArcGIS web maps and web scenes to create an interactive narrative that’s easy to publish and share. 

How can students in the lower year groups benefit from drone programs? (29:47)

Pippa and Dronie is a beautifully illustrated book recommended for readers from Foundation to Year 4, celebrating diversity in STEM.

The book introduces children to real-life female role models doing amazing things in their work with drones. 

With strong links to the Australian Curriculum and a variety of activities linked to STEM it is a great resource with a coding app as well! 

Join in the adventure as Pippa and Dronie travel around Australia, finding out just how useful a drone can be!

If you are interested in finding out more about drone programs in schools, get in contact with our team.

About She Maps.

She Maps is Australia’s leading expert in drone and geospatial education. 

She Maps assist schools with the purchasing of drones, school-industry created drone and geospatial teaching resources and highly supportive teacher professional development.

You’re in Safe Hands!
She Maps is a CASA approved commercial operator to fly microdrones indoors with students and teachers. CASA holds commercial operators, to a higher standard than recreational users and educators. This means that She Maps has been assessed by CASA as having rigorous training and risk mitigation procedures in place.

Ready to buy drones for your school? We are an authorised DJI reseller in Australia

Want some help?

Schedule a call with one of our team members to get some personalised recommendations.
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