What was once viewed as a nuisance or a children’s toy is now widely recognized as a tool for business: drones. Teachers are now seeking ways to take advantage of drones as meaningful instructional tools such as using them to teach content learning standards or to prepare students for a career as a drone pilot for commercial use.
Teaching Content Learning Standards
Of all the feature requests I receive about using drones, autonomous flight is the most common by far. However, for drones such as the DJI models, autonomous flight is much different than the computer programming with which teachers and students are familiar. For example, programming a DJI Phantom 4 to follow a specific route is as easy as reading Google maps and placing points of interest. Most teachers are really looking for something similar to blockly, Java, or another programming language; if you are in this category as well, you may be delighted to know that you can sign out up to 6 Parrot Minidrones through the CA BOCES Media CoSer.
Aside from the obvious connection to computer science standards, educational drone curriculum addressing learning standards in other content areas is virtually nonexistent; the lack of curriculum focused on academic learning standards is due to a primary focus on commercial drone use. However, a drone can provide a meaningful substitution for a variety of lessons and concepts such as rates of change in Algebra, velocity in Physics, and digital storytelling in ELA.
According to an extremely accurate 2014 estimate from Goldman Sachs, the drone industry would be valued at roughly $100 billion by 2020. Although nearly 70% of that market belongs to military use, commercial drone usage, particularly in construction and agriculture, is on the rise. A report from Dronethusiast notes that drones in construction were valued at $11 billion.
Since commercial drone use is a rapidly growing industry, several schools are preparing students to operate drones commercially. For instance, over one dozen educators partook in the Introduction to sUAS (small unmanned aerial systems) course at CA BOCES led by Jon Thies, current CEO of SkyOp LLC. Not only did this course help prepare teachers for the Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (a requirement for commercial drone use), but it also helped provide a more accurate picture of the commercial drone industry. Companies, like SkyOp, provide training and curriculum that acts an extension to the introductory course by leading students through a similar, more in-depth experience.
One of the major takeaways from the introductory training was the reaffirmation of the importance of having Part 107 certified educators directly involved during the outdoor use of drones (within FAA and insurance policy regulations) at all times. Consequently, since more educators have expressed interest in preparing for the Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge test, an additional two-day training will take place this summer and will be available on the CA BOCES registration system soon; before you go up, up, and away, make sure you are prepared the right way.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development