by Theresa Desaulniers (July 2019)                                                                         Access the PDF here

Droning should be taught in schools. High schools and middle schools would benefit from having programs for their students designed to let them explore the possibilities of droning. Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are beginning to see more droning courses designed to certify students as young as 16 years old in professional drone usage. If there is a need to collect data, then, in many conditions, a drone can be helpful, and occupations everywhere are discovering the usefulness of using remote sensors. Preparing the youth of today for a career in drone related technology is an opportunity for schools to better serve the interests of students and the community.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are known as drones and will be referred to as such for this paper. Drones range in size from the smallest handheld toy to military grade units that are unmanned fighter jets with a destructive payload capability. The handheld drone is all that is needed to spark the interest of students and be a useful classroom tool. Drones possess various characteristics and capabilities which enhance their potential to be used in education.  Developing activities from basic to advanced and to challenging levels make differentiating learning a natural event in classes.

Droning is a relatively new technology and is still in its infancy, and the potential of drones is still being discovered. This gives educators new ways to introduce concepts and reinforce prior learning. Drone technology can be used to represent the same problem in different contexts so students can see the multiple aspects of a problem which help them to construct their understanding, development of thoughts and encourage making sense of their thoughts which adds up to create new knowledge. (Nawaz et al., 2017). Solving problems in a traditional manner followed by a hands-on technical solution will enliven the lesson as well as reach those students who might not have connected with the material in the first place.

Drone technology has already become one of the major consumer technologies, and preparing students with technical skills and expertise is already in demand. Skills students can learn to prepare for occupations in droning include programming, photography, videography, editing, and data analysis. (Shore, n.d.). Another huge component that can be investigated in the pursuit of a drone education is law. Laws and ethics of appropriate usage of droning is an incredibly hot topic and can create the opportunity for some lively classroom debates. This technology is so new that the students who are learning about it today can be instrumental in the development of policy tomorrow.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a set of regulations that is often vague and difficult to interpret. Hobbyists and professionally licensed drone pilots have different sets of rules where the hobbyist is given more latitude in drone operation. This is a case of ignorance of the law being an excuse to not follow the law. The guidelines that the FAA sets out for hobbyists run parallel to the Part 107, the rules governing drone piloting, and conflicts regularly occur between law enforcement and drone pilots (both hobbyist and professional). A drone program should provide training to the student to understand these differences. A drone program designed to provide the student with a Part 107 certification, a professional drone pilot license, would also encourage debates into ethical usage of droning.  Privacy issues are a hot topic in any community that has a drone pilot. If the drone is simply a toy that middle school age students use to race around the neighborhood, drone hobbyist guidelines still apply. The onus for educating minors in these guidelines falls upon teachers and parents.

Dr. Chris Carnahan and Dr. Laura Zieger, in their book Drones for Education, have created a drone program model for teachers to implement a solid program.  They have created an acronym of the word SOAR to help direct the learning for both student and teacher.

  • Safety
  • Operation
  • Active learning
  • Research

Safety encompasses ethics and legal issues that underscore the relationship a drone pilot has with the community. There are engaging current event stories of drone pilots running amok of ethical practices that students can be encouraged to investigate such as the incident that found Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) standing in his bathrobe preparing to unload a shotgun at a trespassing video camera with wings (Rowe, 2016). These investigations can turn to lively, in-class, debates and shape student behavior as a drone pilot. Safety also deals with the ever-present danger of propeller and person meeting; that should be avoided. Operation refers to a more “nuts and bolts” approach dealing with the mechanics of learning to fly and maintain the drone. Troubleshooting problems helps with the operation category as well as the next category: active learning. Active learning can be applied to many disciplines outside of strictly drone operation courses.

Active learning can take place when drones are used to gather data and students are required to analyze that data. Other learning opportunities arise when students are asked to use math to calculate payload or distances traveled. Physics is a natural connection when asking students to calculate forces on the drone, environment, payload or any combination. Research is needed to apply knowledge to any of the situations. Conveying that research can be done in written or presentation formats. SOAR adds rigor to academics. Teamwork is a social skill that is also encouraged in drone piloting. The use of drones in the classroom gives the students a chance to debate ethical issues and build communication skills which is an asset to any future employer.

One of the greatest demands from the community that teachers are attempting to address is the development of “soft skills” in students. These are the necessary attributes that employers need in employees to ensure a smooth working environment. Co-workers need to arrive to work on-time and appropriately attired. They need to be able to work amicably with many personalities with differing backgrounds and lifestyle choices. They need to accept their shortcomings without rancor and respond with a willingness to cultivate better habits that reflect positively in the workplace. Teamwork is a social skill that is vital to many successful careers. According to Narwaz et al. (2017), using drone technology in a purposeful way in education can enhance student’s technical knowledge and problem-solving skills and make them competent to cope with the future technical and professional requirements. Narwaz et al. (2017) connects technical understanding and social skills to a good droning program. Through successful implementation of an engaging drone class, teachers can better encourage their students to develop these more desirable “soft skills”.

It is well known that some students take physical education or participate in some sport with the hopes of being scouted by a university and granted a scholarship. It is less known that such opportunities also exist, albeit to a lesser extent, for students who excel in activities in technology. Robotics is a high demand in industry and universities are scouting for students who show skill and are interested in pursuing a degree in robotics. As industry demands for drone pilots increase, universities are increasing the technology course selections to include certifications in droning. Drone racing has become a sensational pastime for students in which to engage while studying at a university (OSU Robotics Club, 2019)  A good drone program at a university, coupled with drone racing and a potential scholarship, can be a positive motivator for a student that has experience in this technology at high school (Oregon State University, 2019).

As drone occupations grow, teachers have increased resources with which to share with their students. A student who is interested in agriculture might be more inclined to study if they knew that drones are used in farming. Drones are used to survey the land, measure moisture content in plants, observe water-runoff patterns, locate missing or errant animals, and take census data on wildlife. They are even used to physically weed farms (Medici Scolaro, 2018). Careers in biology use drones in many similar fashions. A drone can observe animals from a distance with cameras and zoom lenses without disturbing their habitat (Wolpert-Gawron, 2017). Using drones can safeguard humans from getting into dangerous situations. Inspecting power lines using a drone has created an entirely new category of employee for power companies (Drone University, 2018). Firefighters are finding ways to utilize drones to determine where lightning has struck and to start small fires to extinguish large ones (Brocious, 2016). The possible connections to real world applications using drones in the classroom are exciting.

Carnahan et al. (2017) point out that most schools and teachers do not have excess time or money to access technology assisted instruction. The future workplaces of students are already utilizing drones and analyzing the data collected by drones using technology that should be available in schools. There are not enough drone CTE teachers to meet current demand (Chorneau, 2018). Studies offer evidence that teachers require enough technological competency in order to achieve maximum student learning (Guzman & Nussbaum, 2009). CTE is an alternative pathway for students to achieve necessary skills as well as being an alternative pathway to create skilled teachers to guide students. Drone education is a specialized skill and teachers may feel intimidated introducing drones into a classroom without having formal training. Administrators and policy makers can alleviate this fear by providing training opportunities. There are many organizations willing to share their knowledge and prepare teachers to train students. Drone University offers online courses and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration provides workshops to teachers across the nation, often providing a stipend to attend.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is currently engaged in a mission to travel to and map Mars. (NASA, 2017) Drones play a huge role in their plans. Finding employees that are creative and motivated to learn droning has prompted NASA to reach out to educational systems and afterschool programs with the sole goal of injecting a desire to learn more about droning in children. Children are encouraged to design and build drones as well as fly them. Teachers are given the resources and funds to extend the knowledge in their classrooms. At risk students and under-represented students are given special consideration in the form of increased accessibility to drones and competitions. NASA does not want students who are financially stifled to not have the opportunity to excel at droning and robotics. All students have the potential to contribute toward the mission to Mars and to other future missions.

No career path is discussed without ensuring that it can provide the necessary financial stability required to survive in our society. Drone piloting and related drone technology careers are surprisingly well paid. The graphic shown does not include drone piloting occupations that include inspections teams (chimney, gutter, powerline, etc.), real estate estimations and surveys, or filmmakers and professional photographers. Often those latter occupations are paid on an individual job basis and are the preferred occupation of people who are employed in other fields or use droning jobs as a “hobby” that pays. It is important to note that a hobby that provides a financial compensation, of any type, requires the attainment of a Part 107 (FAA, 2019).UAV Industry Salary Ranges

Perlman, Alan (2014) UAV (Drone) Industry Job Salary Ranges. Retrieved from

Creating a strong drone program in middle and high school should be a focus for every school district. The benefits for both student and community are immense. Interest in every subject can be revitalized with the implementation of droning or analyzing data gathered by a drone. Providing exposure to droning offers the students a chance to debate ethical issues, enrich general education, and build skills that will be useful in future occupations. Regardless of whether a school is a CTE specific school or only offers one the opportunity to experience drone curriculum, droning may be the reason some students come to school. Once in school, students are likely to stay and complete to graduation.  Embracing this technology is both fun and educational bound to lead to exciting futures.



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