STEM and drones: Drone lesson plans for kids (and adults!)

Perhaps you’re looking to start an after-school STEM program as part of a Girl or Boy Scout troop, YMCA, or other program for kids. Maybe you’re a teacher looking to incorporate drones into your everyday lesson plans. Or maybe you’re a parent of grade-school kid just looking for supplemental enrichment programming for the kids to do over summer or winter break. As drones become one of the most sought-after STEM tools in classrooms, you might be in need of some drone lesson plans.

Drones are an excellent way to keep kids both engaged with learning and entertained. And luckily, there’s tons of drone-based educational content designed for kids (okay, and adults too!). Many are even free and available online.

Related read: 7 steps to building a high school drone program

These drone lesson plans come from some reputable sources including Khan Academy and NASA. So with that here are the best at-home drone lesson plans and other activities for parents to share with their kids (including free drone lesson plans, too):

The best curriculum if you’re looking for paid drone lesson plans

For older students learning about Raspberry Pi: Drone Dojo

Whether you already have your own parts to build your own drone and want straightforward guidance via a perfectly laid out video tutorial, or you want to order a ready-to-build Raspberry Pi drone kit, Drone Dojo is your source.

Drone Dojo is an incredible learning hub with video DIY drone courses on topics including “How to build a Raspberry Pi drone,” and “How to program a drone using Python.” There’s even a deep-dive, capstone-type course on “Precision Landing and Drone Delivery.”

If all the courses make it feel like it’ll be tough to choose, the good news is you don’t have to. Drone Dojo runs on a monthly subscription model. Its Blue Belt Membership costs $27 per month.

Most of his courses are around building drones using Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a popular line of small, single-board computers about the size of a credit card used among STEM classrooms and even small businesses. These days, the Raspberry Pi is one of the best-selling British computers. In fact, more than 30 million boards have been sold as of December 2019.

The $27 online subscription gets you all the virtual courses, though you’ll need to supply your own materials. That means you ultimately might shell out, say, $900 Raspberry Pi drone kit. Though, that kit is well worth it, as it includes all the supplies you need. Plus, there are video tutorials teaching you how to put them together.

While the course itself is easy to follow, this is not a kids’ project. Use this one for advanced high school students, or young adults (and old adults!).

Age group: High school to adults

Cost: $27 per month

How to access: Subscribe to Drone Dojo here

For an all-inclusive drone education curriculum: DroneBlocks

DroneBlocks offers a comprehensive suite of educational solutions in drones and robotics for STEM educators. Their programs aim to teach computer science fundamentals, assist students in obtaining a commercial drone pilot license, create a drone light show, or even launch a competitive FPV drone racing team.

The most popular option is to purchase the entire DroneBlocks curriculum (hardware not included). STEM educators can enroll in their schools for $495 per year. This curriculum includes over 40 courses covering a range of topics such as advanced programming in Python and JavaScript, drag-and-drop block coding, access to a drone simulator, and more.

There are some smaller courses within your curriculum you can try out for free like one on drone light shows. In this course, students have access to software that allows them to modify existing shows or create their masterpieces. While all software and course materials are provided for free, bringing your drone show to life requires purchasing the necessary hardware, which includes 10 drones and additional equipment, for $7,495.

The DroneBlocks curriculum is compatible with all Tello, Tello EDU, Robomaster TT, and Crazyflie Nano drones. Crazyflie Nano drones are available for purchase on their site either individually or in bulk packages of 10 drones.

Age group: Middle school to high school

Cost: $495 annually 

How to access: Visit the DroneBlocks website here.

For detailed drone lesson plans designed for grade-school classrooms: She Maps

She Maps is an educational site that provides programming both in-person and in the form of drone lesson plans for teachers. One of their premier offerings is a program where students “become” a Geospatial Scientist for the day. With that, they fly a drone to complete a survey mission to gather data.

But they also offer a number of online teacher resources. Their programming includes:

  • Drones: Learn how to bring drones into your classroom with no stress
  • Digital Tech: Practical lessons on using digital technology to its potential
  • Coding: Teach your students real-life problem solving through code
  • Mapping and Data: Run Geospatial lessons and projects with your students

Normally, access to that programming costs $170 a year. But ever since COVID-19 brought in the possibility of widespread, remote learning She Maps began offering additional resources, free of charge. The team said they intend to add more resources over the coming weeks.

Age group: Grade school

Cost: Free to $170 annually

How to access: Visit the She Maps website here.

For a Netflix-style curriculum offering: World of Drones Education

World of Drones Education is a web portal for educators that curates content for teachers, produces STEM master classes for the STEM world. Plus, it offers up other learning supplements such as a blog, vlog, podcast, and webinar platform. It’s a sort of ‘Netflix’ of STEM resources for teachers, educators, corporates, and parents. It also includes on-demand lesson plans (for an extra fee).

The Australian-based site has tons of Australian-related drone content, but also extensively covers U.S. rules and regulations, along with rules in some other major countries.

Target age demographic: Ages 10-16

Skills covered:

  • Guide to Getting Started with Drones in Schools:
    •  Who are CASA
    • Drone Education Aligned to the Australian Curriculum Years 5 – 10
    • Safety Considerations for Lessons 
  • What the drone rules are around the world
    • CASA Australia
    • FAA USA
    • Airshare NZ

Price tag: VIP Level Access costs $500 AUD annually for industry and corporate members*. The Basic Education Package costs $0 for teachers and educators. Though, you must submit a brief application to be considered for $0 membership.

*Corporate membership includes extras that Basic package does not include, such as VIP-invite industry events. On-demand lesson plans are available for an additional fee.

World of Drones Education’s claim to fame: World of Drones Education is the brainchild of Dr. Catherine Ball. Ball also created the annual World of Drones Congress conference in Australia. Dr. Ball is known for her humanitarian drone work and has worked on past drone projects such as SheFlies.

The best drone lesson plans for getting your Part 107 license

Many of the online courses revolve around Part 107 test prep. Under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, anyone in the U.S. wanting to operate a drone commercially needs to obtain a drone pilot license, which you get by passing an in-person written exam. Here are some of the Part 107 test prep courses I like:

For older kids (high-school age and up) seeking a career in drones: Drone Pilot Ground School

Under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, anyone in the U.S. wanting to operate a drone commercially needs to obtain a drone pilot license. You get that by passing an in-person written exam

Does your teen wants an awesome summer job? Delivering pizzas via drone? Conducting roof inspections for neighbors? Maybe they just want to be ready for a career in drones. Use this time to start studying for the Part 107 test.

You must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a remote pilot certificate. Given that, it might make sense for 14 or 15 year olds to start taking the course now so they’re ready to take and pass the test when they turn 16.

To study, I recommend online learning platform Drone Pilot Ground School (it’s what I, The Drone Girl, used to pass my Part 107 test on the first try) for a trove of videos, practice questions, a cram sheet, a forum, weekly newsletter, 1:1 customer support and more. The program typically takes about 15-20 hours to complete.

It usually costs $300, but you can use coupon code DRONEGIRL50 to save $50 and bring your price down to just $249.

Plus, it gets better for high school students. They offer a scholarship program that awards recipients free access to their course and reimbursement for the $150 FAA exam fee. Apply here, and apply now, as the submission deadline is rolling.

If you’re on a budget and can’t get accepted for the scholarship program, also check out Drone Launch Academy. It’s another great Part 107 training course, and it’s slightly cheaper at just $199 (plus, use code DRONEGIRL50 to save an extra $50), bringing your total to just $149. No matter what course you use, I HIGHLY recommend Drone Launch Academy’s flashcards too!

Age group: 14+

Cost: Free to $300 (or $249 with coupon)

How to access: Visit Drone Pilot Ground School here.

For pilots who want peace of mind about not failing: Drone Launch Academy

The $200 Drone Launch Academy online course can provide you peace of mind about passing. If you fail your in-person exam, Drone Launch Academy will pay for you to retake it, which is an $150 value in itself, on top of a course refund (an additional $199 value).

  • Price: $199 (plus use coupon code DRONEGIRL50 to save $50 and bring your price down to just $149)
  • Time needed to complete: 5 hours to watch the videos straight through, or 15 hours to go through all the study materials
  • What’s included in the price tag: video lectures, 200 practice questions including actual FAA questions, 75-page downloadable e-book study guide

The best drone lesson plans specific to physical drones

The best drone to learn to code: Crazyflie Nano drone

DroneBlocks recently began selling the Crazyflie Nano drone for educators looking to teach coding through drones in response to DJI discontinuing the Tello drone. 

The Crazyflie Nano drone, weighing 27 grams, is compact enough to fit in a student’s palm. Designed for indoor flying, it can navigate crowded areas like classrooms. In fact, the Crazyflie drone comes in at No. 1 in my recommendation list of the top educational drones for a STEM program.

This allows students to engage in block coding and Python programming using the DroneBlocks app, providing them the opportunity to immediately test and improve their coding skills in real-time.

The drone can also be assembled by hand in about 15 minutes, another great feature that educators can incorporate into their instruction.

Age group: Grade school to adult

Cost: $379

How to access: Get your own Crazyflie through the DroneBlocks site

The DJI Tello is one of my favorite drones for newbies.

For a learning drone with a camera: Tello (if you can find it!)

The Tello drone is a low-cost yet high-quality drone made by Ryze Technology, using DJI equipment. It’s great for learning how to fly and learning how to code. But perhaps the most unique asset when it comes to Tello drone lesson plans is the drone’s ability to teach coding. The Tello drone integrates with a programming language called Scratch. With it, you can program the drone to fly certain directions based on the “code” you have written.

It’s a great practice drone for anyone new to piloting, whether kid or adult. Plus, it comes with a camera, something many learning drones do not have.

Why did we ditch Tello as the top pick? That’s because DJI discontinued the Tello drone. In late 2023, the Tello drone was listed as sold out on DJI’s stop. On third parties such as Amazon, quantities are limited (mostly to used versions only).

Age group: Grade school to adult

Cost: $99

How to access:  You might be lucky and snag a used Tello, but be mindful of the risks.

Free curriculum: the best drone lesson plans that don’t cost a dime

For free videos on mapping and reality capture: DroneDeploy Insider

This streaming service airs past DroneDeploy Conference talks, plus videos made specifically for the service. There are also podcasts, plus downloadable PDFs (in case you want extra info in a format that’s not video). Called DroneDeploy Insider, it’s made by DroneDeploy. Based in San Francisco, DroneDeploy makes drone mapping software — so just beware its underlying goal to sell you as a DroneDeploy customer.

Age group: Adults

Cost: Free

How to access: Visit DroneDeploy Insider here.

For free online instruction in a range of topics: Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free online site with lessons, exercises and quizzes. I recommend their “Crash Course on Indoor Flying Robots.”

But that’s not all the drone-related course offered on Khan Academy. Electrical engineers might be interested in this course on home-made robots or this program on building motors. This photography course incorporates aerial photography.

And this one isn’t directly drone-related, but besides my love of drones, I love Disney…so I’m sharing it anyway! Disney developed their own series of 32 videos for Khan Academy called ‘Imagineering in a Box’. The lesson plan show how Imagineers (that’s Disney’s term for their creative engineering team) use skills ranging from story development and conceptual design, to math, physics and engineering – to create immersive experiences. We know that Disney Imagineering is actively looking into drones themselves. They’ve filed patents for their own drone projects. And, they once teamed up with Intel to put on a drone light show for Disney World guests.

Age group: 4 to 18 years

Cost: Free

How to access: Visit Khan Academy’s website here.

For drone lesson plans that integrate a 3D printer: NASA’s 3D Models

This is a little more space-oriented than drone, but it’s relevant, especially given that many dronies also own 3D printers.

NASA allows you to download tons of free digital 3D models. That way, you can print your own miniature satellites, landing sites, asteroids, spacecraft, spacesuits and astronaut tools.

While most of the models for now are space-focused, NASA has actually been quite active in the drone industry. That includes working closely with the FAA on efforts related to drone air traffic control.

Age group: 13+

Cost: Free (if you don’t have a 3D printer yet, you can typically buy one for less than $200)

How to access: Download 3D models from NASA’s webpage here.

For high-achieving students seeking college-level drone lesson plans: Class Central

Online course aggregator Class Central has tons of online educational content on a range of topics (drones and beyond). And some of its best courses? More than 400, free Ivy League classes.

Older students who want to work in the drone industry might be especially interested in these ones:

Browse all of the free Ivy League courses here.

Age group: High school to college

Cost: Free

How to access: Browse all of Class Central’s available classes here.

If you’re looking to incorporate physical drones into the classroom, check out my guide to the best indoor drones. Also, see my favorite free drone content online (for learning and entertainment). If you’re looking for reading materials, check out my guide to the best drone children’s books.

What drone lesson plans do you recommend? Do you have any tips for starting (or growing) a STEM program? Leave a comment below!


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