first drone flight

Using Drones to Teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

The following guest post was written by David Santana, a blogger who focuses on writing about the evolution of modern education. 

The first credited use of drones dates back to the early 1900s, when militaries used radio-controlled aircraft in attacks. The drone industry has evolved since then — particularly depending on your definition of what a drone is. But ever since drones like the DJI Phantom and Parrot AR drones came out in the early 2010s, the tech has been more accessible — enough to have found a unique place in education.

These days, educators all over the world are using drones to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). That includes the folks at SheMaps in Australia, who are developing curriculum to be used in any school worldwide, the Young Aviator Club of Africa (which was founded by 2023 Women and Drones Hall of Fame honoree Mercy Makau), and even online STEM courses put together by companies like Drone Dojo that make learning accessible anywhere in the world you have an Internet connection.

Whether you’re a teacher, club leader, parent or any other role model for students, here are six  reasons why drones are an effective tool to use in schools — and why they’re an ideal teaching tool you might adopt to get students ready for jobs in STEM fields.

1. Drones support the shift towards experiential learning

A traditional classroom setting might stereotypically entail books and talks. Meanwhile, drones are a unique way to meet students’ needs for more engaging and hands-on learning, giving students the chance to go beyond theoretical information and see how STEM concepts are used in the real world.

In fact, a Harvard study published September 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that — although students felt as if they learned more through traditional lectures — they actually learned more when participating in ‘active-learning strategies.’

2. Drones bridge the gap between theory and practice

Pi Zero micro drone: the DIY drone kit for beginners that still works with ArduPilot

One of the best things about using drones in education is that they can help kids learn about new technology. Drones come with high-tech sensors, cameras, and GPS systems, giving students a chance to use tools that are popular in STEM fields.

And with that comes hard problems to solve, like programming flight routes (there are straightforward online courses to help you program a drone using Python) or learning to address technical problems (like how to build your own delivery drone). These tasks help kids learn how to think critically and solve problems, which are important skills for success in STEM fields.

3. Drones can make theoretical mathematical concepts feel practical 

drone math lesson plan World of Drones Education Catherine Ball drones STEM

Drones are a great way to use technology to teach math through concepts like analyzing flight patterns, measuring distances, and interpreting data.

Just turn to this drone math lesson plan from World of Drones Education, a web portal for educators, as an example. It has a math lesson module called “Maths For Drones: State Space Modelling” where students measure the flight speed of a drone using video analysis. The measurements gained from this activity are used in a rescue-based design challenge. Advanced students can even take that lesson plan and calculus to determine the exact location the drone hits the ground if they ignore drag.

4. They might even inspire essay writing

Even though using drones in STEM education is mostly about hands-on learning and technical skills, it’s important to know that they have a big effect on another important part of education: writing essays. With all that hands-on learning comes inspiration for ideas around writing more thoughtful essays.

For example, a biology class that uses drones to study a local environment can lead to essays about nature’s delicate balance and how people’s actions affect it. 

Even students who turn to professional essay writers — a trend that has skyrocketed in recent years — can use what they’ve learned first-hand from drones to give those writers a unique perspective to work with. That might include the college essay writers at Papersowl, which provides professional online services. Such a type of collaboration can help to achieve great academic results.

5. Drones can easily lead to real job opportunities

Expertise in drones — often learned in grade school — can provide a clear career path (and often doesn’t even necessitate a college degree). To work as a professional drone pilot in the U.S., you’ll need a drone pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration which you get by passing an in-person written exam called the Aeronautical Knowledge Test

Even high school students can get the test (you just need to be at least 16 years old to qualify for a remote pilot certificate). And many industry leaders are working overtime to ensure youth get involved. For example, online learning platform Drone Pilot Ground School offers a scholarship program for high school students to study for and take the test.

And for what it’s worth, you don’t need to necessarily work as a drone pilot to have gained experience using them in school. As demand for STEM professionals continues to grow, students who have experience with drones will likely be better prepared for future careers in other high paying STEM fields like technology, engineering, and scientific research.

6. Drones offer engagement and motivation

first drone flight

Drones keep students’ attention and get them excited about learning. The fun of flying drones and solving problems in the real world gets them more interested in STEM topics.

Critically, drones can attract a diverse range of students to STEM fields, breaking down barriers and encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue these disciplines.

Drones bridge the gap between theory and practice, engages students, and prepares them for future STEM careers. By embracing this innovative tool, educators are shaping the future of STEM education.

–By David Santana

If you’d like to submit a guest post, contact The Drone Girl here.

One Comment

  • Ed Bush says:

    If electives are still be offered in secondary education, an introductory course on drones should be offered.

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