For the last several years, educators have been keen on utilizing drones as a tool for teaching and learning and have had to overcome a few obstacles along the way. Insurance options? Check. Students verified as recreational users? Done. Part 107 preparation for educators? No problem. However, with several changes in regulations taking place over the last year, it is due time to highlight some key details to help ensure that educators are appropriately taking to the sky.
As of April 21, 2021, new regulations regarding operations over people, over moving vehicles, and at night went into effect. “Drone pilots operating under Part 107 may fly at night, over people and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the rule” (FAA).
Similarly, “All drone pilots required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID beginning September 16, 2023” (FAA). Essentially, this rule indicates that drones must be enabled with the ability to be identified remotely by other parties.
Most importantly, as of June, 2021, recreational fliers must pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Public schools this is both good and bad news. One the one hand, it is good since there has been additional clarity offered regarding whether educators fall under the commercial or recreational use classification; it seems more clear, now, that schools meet the requirements of a “community-based organization” and educators can be acknowledged as recreational users when utilizing drones for educational purposes.
The down side, albeit minimal, is that students also fall within the recreational user definition, and consequently, must be able to verify a completed TRUST certification as well. While the certification process itself is simple, the list of providers minimally require an email address and a name for the individual seeking certification which means a data privacy agreement must be obtained to be in compliance with Education Law 2-D. Until agreements have been reached, it is recommended for students to obtain their TRUST certification at home under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
DJI Mavic Mini/Mini 2
Not only are regulations changing, but the technology is as well. To make sure drone pilots were more easily able to fly and avoid Part 107 regulations, DJI released the Mavic Mini (and more recently the Mini 2) weighing only 249 grams, 1 gram beneath the regulation requirements. While this drone is small, it still captures high quality photos and video.
Like the larger Phantom and Mavic models, the Mini is extremely easy to operate, but the fly more bundle is substantially cheaper for the DJI Mavic Mini and the DJI Mini 2 at $399 and $599 respectively.
Lastly, I think it is important to bring us back to educational implications. There are limited curricular resources written that utilize drones as an educational tool and are freely available, so educators must carefully consider the ways in which they intend to facilitate learning with these devices. To keep the conversation going around educational drone curriculum, reach out to Mark_Beckwith@caboces.org
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
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