Opinion: Tips for Starting a Drone Program for K-12



There has been a rise in K-12 schools introducing drones to the classroom as experimental use cases have shown their educational potential in science, technology, art, mathematics and engineering skills. As students become interested in the prospect of flying robots in their classrooms, teachers will need support systems to understand how to implement drones into their lesson plans.

Before investing in the hardware, there are some essential steps K-12 schools can make to get educational drone programs off the ground.

Consider Specific Objectives

Before purchasing a drone, educators should identify the need, audience and purpose of the student engagement and achievement of the course standard or objective. There are four things they should consider:

1. Licensing. Teachers should consider acquiring a license as a Federal Aviation Administration Part 107-certified remote pilot to ensure they understand the safety, rules and regulations associated with drones. The certification is not required by the FAA for educational use. 

2. Safety. Teachers should learn where drones are allowed to be flown. We are responsible for flying within FAA guideline and regulations. 

3. Pick a drone. Teachers should decide on a drone based on their objective for their class or program. In picking a drone, ask questions like: Where will we be flying? Is there enough space to fly the drone you’re using? Does the drone have to be registered with the FAA because of its size? How many drones will I need per student? Is there an age requirement for the drone?

4. Support Staff. Teachers should seek support staff in and outside of the school. 

  • Developing relationships with drone pilots and experts could help ensure compliance with new rules, laws and regulations. Forming an advisory board of drone experts can be very helpful. 
  • Gaining the support of the school’s IT department could help address problems with software and devices used to control the drones. It’s best to ensure your students can access all the necessary software, computers and networks.

Create a Budget

When starting a program, your budget should be centered around your educational objective. Your budget should include not only the actual drones and curriculum, but also estimated costs for software controls, such as a mobile device; maintenance, including extra batteries and propellors; insurance; FAA licensing, if desired; and materials for challenge missions, such as hoops, loops and landing pads.

Funding Options

After deciding the objective and organizing the budget, you should look for alternative sources of funding to purchase drones and accessories. Funding for educators can be scarce, but there are ways to fund drones in the classroom. The business technology company Adorama Business Solutions, for example, offers a 2021 grant guide for a list of funding assistance. 

Benefits of Drones in the Classroom

For many years, drones were confined to science fiction or futurist thinking. Today, unmanned aircraft systems or drones are quickly turning into part of our day-to-day reality. With drones being used in agriculture, filmmaking, conservation, search and rescue, military operations, and energy infrastructure, their introduction to the classroom could help prepare students for careers in many industries.

Drone activities can be used across curriculums, too. Examples of drones in classroom activities include, but are not limited to, studying types of landscapes and environmental features, studying measurements or units of length and studying traffic safety or other community features through observation.


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