What are Drones?


Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that are controlled autonomously by computers or pilots with remote controls. They were innovated in the early 1900s for military personnel training and typically leveraged in operations that are too dangerous or time-consuming for humans. Still most commonly used for military purposes, drones have been deployed for a wide range of tasks, such as policing and community surveillance and security, filmmaking, and the surveying of agriculture and crops. In the past century, drone technology has advanced users’ abilities to extensively view objects and landscapes below, as well as to detect changes in environmental conditions. Features including biological and chemical sensors, electromagnetic spectrum sensors, and infrared cameras make these detailed observations possible. While legal and ethical concerns have been raised by many over the prospect of constantly being monitored by these vehicles, new civil aviation programs and experiments that include drones reflect a growing use of the technology. There are not yet concrete applications for teaching and learning, but the continuous progress of drones in the military and consumer sectors make them compelling to watch closely over the next few years.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • As an upcoming curriculum of study/career.- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 1, 2016
  • Re: using drones in education, I confess I didn't get it until recently. Now programmable drones are available/affordable, and it all makes sense! Closely tied in with Makerspaces in general and Robotics in particular, this is one of the best ways I've found to get kids interested in programming. You can get a Parrot Rolling Spider Minidrone for less than US $100, then use free apps like Tickle (https://tickleapp.com/) or Tynker (https://www.tynker.com/) to get kids programming via visual coding (a la Scratch) in minutes. Later you can move up to bigger drones and use JavaScript or another language. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016 Agree, David. We have a drones after-school program. And this is now becoming a career...from the military to the use in farming to forestry. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Apr 8, 2016 Completely agree, it's a natural extension to the code.org programs and makerspaces taking off. We're adding drones in as part of the robotics tournaments in the upcoming year. Clearly, drones are going to be a major component of life going forward with multiple applications. Exposing students now as part of maker and robotics spaces might lead to some remarkable advances in society as the students get older. I certainly see from the school perspective this being used in the video production courses for sporting events, and in STEM classes as part of competition or within the course as programming autonomous drones to complete tasks will be part of our daily life in the near future. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Apr 13, 2016

  • Agree, Drones can be part of the efforts to bring “Computational thinking” into the curriculum as a general competence. - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Apr 10, 2016
  • I too agree with everything mentioned above. There are many careers focused on the use of drones. Kansas University offers unmanned aircraft degrees and much is focused on helping agriculture. https://polytechnic.k-state.edu/aviation/uas/ It is a great way to get students into this and use them to solve real world issues. - kayj kayj Apr 24, 2016
  • I agree that coding of drones could be an opportunity for learning. I did see this in Singapore at the IDA lab for education technology. - keith.krueger keith.krueger Apr 25, 2016
  • Coding of drones and use of drones in science and fieldwork could have a lot of potential - oysteinjohannessen oysteinjohannessen May 1, 2016
  • Flight is one of the best ways to capture imagination. While I agree there can be a great deal of integration with coding and robotics, we can also teach scientific principles of flight, history of flight, and legal implications such as privacy and safety. These focuses will allow us to actually use them for other purposes, because the amount of fear and concern about drones huge in the general media. - alex.podchaski alex.podchaski May 1, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Programming. And soon, kids will be able to design and build their own drones just like robots: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Drones/. Someone mentioned Arduino and Raspberry Pi elsewhere...using these boards are a way of making not just robots but drones affordable too. Plus an Arduino or Raspberry Pi can be used for other cool stuff. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Drones and privacy--calls into question the Robert Frost line of "good fences make good neighbors." If drones with cameras are flying everywhere, is there privacy anywhere?- mporter mporter Apr 23, 2016
  • Citizenship, safety, and digital citizenship are all implied but not specified.- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski May 1, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • Those who work with this technology are very engaged in learning.- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 1, 2016
  • Great way to get kids interested in programming now...designing/building later. And, as mentioned earlier, everything is becoming more affordable and accessible. I foresee drones and robots merging soon, or at least drones becoming as common as robots in K-12 schools. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Agree with David. I don't think it's long before the Vex and FirstRobotics programs begin including drones as part of the competition. Certainly student access to drones engages many learners into coding, robotics, and science. We plan to utilize the drone clubs/programs at our schools to film the areas we are installing outdoor wireless, as well as short videos for first responders mapping the routes responders take when arriving on campus followed by a campus aerial view. Not directly tied to teaching, but certainly a part of student learning on how to utilize drones within the workplace.- digitalroberto digitalroberto Apr 13, 2016
  • Coding will be expanded especially at the secondary level. It can provide real world exploration and problems solving. - kayj kayj Apr 24, 2016
  • This can be the foundation for design classes, legal studies in history/social studies, integration with scientific sensing/remote sensing, communications, and integration with Ham Radio. AS I mentioned earlier, the concept of flying bridges many disciplines, so the sky is literally the limit (pun intended)! - alex.podchaski alex.podchaski May 1, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


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