Education and the STEM field of robotics and is right in line with Drones, which is the topic for the FAA’s fifth day of the Drone safety awareness week. The week runs from November 4th through 10th, 2019. Drone safety is in our hands, you know this, you control your drone and ensure it is handled safely. From the FAA’s perspective, there is more to a safe flight than just making sure you don’t crash, they have many rules and regulations for drones, all designed around safety for other air traffic, as well as for people on the ground below.
Day four of the FAA’s Drone safety awareness week is for Education and STEM.
The future is drones, can we agree on that? Exposing youth to these machines can only be good for the future. Building the machines can be a fun hobby, flying them can be even better, but learning how to follow the rules and actually be safe in the sky is the most important.
Drones in STEM
Not all that long ago, educators took the time, made the effort themselves, to bring drones into the classroom for youth. There have been a few drone manufacturers step up to provide education versions of their machines, or even education dedicated drones, to help put drones in the classroom. There are a few aspects to STEM that drones can satisfy, including:
- How to build a drone
- How to program a drone
- How to fly a drone
Building drones can be handled on several levels, you can buy a kit and simply bolt it all together, you can take a ready-made drone and break it down, or you can source individual parts and start trying to create something of your own. The goal is to learn the components, how they fit together, how they work together and identify what customization is possible. Bigger motors with more power are not always of benefit, for example.
Programming drones is a delicate task. First, there is the initial programming to make sure your flight control board is level, that the drone spins left when you push the sticks and so forth. Once you’ve nailed basic flight and maneuverability, you can turn to navigation. One of the first tasks we recommend is seeing if you can get a reliable hover. It’s harder than you might imagine. Next, look at waypoint navigation, see if you can get the drone to fly itself across the room and back. Got those two basics figured out? Good, now program an Orbit flight mode. That’s where the drone goes around you, keeping you at the center of the camera, and usually adds some vertical movement as well. If you copy the DJI Quickshot version of it, that adds a loop away from you and back again as well, thus operating all eight directions of travel, and some gimbal movement, in one cycle, easy!
Finally, educators can simply teach children to fly. Managing the aircraft is the first part, but we do hope that safety is taught before the craft leaves the ground.
We recommend teaching children to fly indoors. First, it reduces travel when things go wrong, second, the FAA does not have jurisdiction inside your gymnasium. The FAA is not against teaching children to fly, but it is certainly easier to not have to worry about airspace authorization for each drone/pilot, and other factors of a legal flight.
Next up, education is a little different than STEM, at least for our purposes. The best example I can offer is the AUVSI Xponential drone convention. This gathering brings together thousands of trained and experienced drone pilots and enthusiasts, and yet, there are dozens of classes every day of the convention. We like to attend that classes on shooting better drone videos, how to edit photos and video after you’re done flying and we attend every class we can that covers managing the laws around drones.
To be fair, I do not believe there has ever been a ‘How to fly a drone’ class at Xponential, but you can find many such tutorials from the manufacturers themselves at events. Absolutely every DJI event I have been to that offers the chance to fly a drone also has multiple staff per drone to help educate on how to fly. Yes, most of these events were media exclusive events, but DJI has held public events as well, one of which is where we purchased the original DJI Mavic Pro back in 2016.
Many colleges now offer drone flight courses, covering the basics and then diving into some more advanced flight techniques. These hands-on classes are super. If you are a little more comfortable with your drone, and just looking to learn more about the laws, techniques, or maybe you want to get your Part 107 Certification so you can fly for pay, there are hands-off classes for that.
We chose Drone Pilot Ground School as our trusted partner for Part 107 training. They go well beyond just passing the test, the community of experienced pilots can answer your questions for near any drone related topic, with a focus on making you the best pilot you can be. Trust us, the best you can be is well beyond just getting your Part 107 certification.
When you begin to explore beyond civilian operations, drone education takes on more of a procedural role. Learning to manage an aircraft is only a small part of flying an aircraft. If nothing else, the ability to communicate with ATC and understand how, where and when you can take off, fly, and land is a course all unto itself. We’re not going to get into that today, the FAA wants us to focus on civilian flight.
Before we wrap up, we’ve discussed education from the perspective of learning to fly or how to manage flight, don’t forget that there is a wide-world of education tasks that can benefit from a drone. Marine biology is rapidly becoming a major user of drones. Spotting wildlife from above is less invasive, more accurate and certainly safer. This is not to speak of the fields of aeronautical education here to scrutinize drones. Do you know why we don’t have to register the DJI Mavic Mini with the FAA? It’s because it weighs less than 250 grams. 250 grams is the weight that several research projects have determined to be safe in a collision with a human.
A drone can be a powerful research assistant, but this does not preclude the pilot from following all of the FAA’s flight rules and laws. Educate yourself on how to fly legally, then go use drones for your education.
See you tomorrow with some recreational use safety topics.