December 23, 2021 — 5 minutes
Charting a Safe Course
So you’re ready to introduce drones to your classroom and bring your students’ learning to new heights! … but as with many new trending technologies, the web can be flooded with drone content, making it difficult to navigate a place to start.
Are these drones safe to be flying in a classroom?
What are these Federal Regulations and Certifications you keep reading about?
What kind of drone is the best fit for my students?
It may seem a bit dizzying, but you’re in the right place.
DroneBlocks is a chief pioneer in STEM-based drone curriculum for classrooms and drone technology in general, and we have seen it all. We will recommend our best practices, as we have done the research and trials to back it all up. In fact, DroneBlocks curriculum and software have been implemented in thousands of classrooms around the world.
Drones built with the Classroom in mind
Like most web surfers, you and your students have likely come across some of the amazing capabilities of drones in action all over the news, social media, and YouTube. These may have even been the spark that led you to explore drones as an exciting and engaging learning tool. Different drones have different applications and we are focused on the ideal drone for education programs. This means safety, compatibility, affordability, and durability.
Our pick tried and true, is the DJI Tello Drone… and here’s why.
DJI Tello Drone
Small things come in great packages, and the Tello drone is packed with features. This “Micro Drone” can flip, fly and photograph with the best of them. It also has all of the integral flight-assist features built-in such as idle hover, auto-landing, and vision positioning sensors to aid in avoiding in-flight obstacles.
Secondly, DJI is a company you will hear often in the drone sphere, being the undisputed number One manufacturer of drones in the world. This comes with the assurance of great support, consistent updates, ultimate compatibility with all apps, accessories, and learning resources. The Tello drone also comes in at a great price, with affordable replacement parts and durable batteries.
Want to avoid FAA Regulations entirely? Well, the DJI Tello is below the weight requirement for any Federal Regulations…which means you don’t need to bother with registering or certifying anything. It is ready to fly out of the box and specifically designed for indoor use…perfect for a classroom. It’s also worth mentioning that since you are flying indoors there is no need to worry about FAA-controlled airspace restrictions. This makes it possible to easily fly drones at schools in major cities like New York that have laws against outdoor public drone use.
This Tello drone is as safe as they come. Its small size, manageable speed, and flexible plastic parts leave very little room for hazard. We’ll cover our Recommended Safety Standards down below, but just know as long they are generally followed…you have nothing to worry about.
Ideal for all ages. The Tello serves a broad spectrum of skill levels, which means it’s as simple or as advanced as you would like it to be. The Tello drone is currently used in Elementary Schools, Middle schools, and High Schools and the applications are determined by the curriculum you decide to pair it with.
It is Programmable! Any drone can be flown with a remote control on any day…but what really makes a drone into a one-of-a-kind educational tool is the ability to plan and code flight missions. By using curriculum paired software, like DroneBlocks, students can learn valuable and relevant STEM skills with the ultimate reward of seeing their work come to life.
This is our case for the DJI Tello drone being the perfect educational tool. Feel free to continue your research! Here are some other types of drones you might hear about, but we’ve felt wise to yaw clear of.
“First Person View” FPV Drones are fascinatingly fast, agile, and commonly used by hobbyists for daring acrobatics or drone racing. You may have spotted these drones on ESPN Motorsports traveling upwards of 120+ mph in Professional Drone Races. Here are a few things to note when exploring FPV Drones for a classroom setting.
They use high-speed motors, interchangeable modification systems and take extremely keen skill to operate safely. Because of this, FPV Drones are intended for use outdoors and thus require Remote Identification with the FAA and pilots must pass the TRUST (The Recreational UAS Safety Test) Certification before taking off. FPV Pilots operating outdoors must adhere to all FAA regulations and any schools within 5 miles of an airport will need to consider the complexities of flying in controlled airspace.
FPV Drones are typically custom built with several moving parts such as transmitters, remote control, FPV Goggles, specialized battery chargers to name a few…making it pretty pricey. Because these drones are piloted via “First Person View” the operator needs a near-instant video feed from the drone, which is a costly system even at its base level.
FPV Drones are not programmable. This type of drone is meant for Remote Controlled operation, so in the end, students will miss out entirely on learning to program and code.
Intended for adult operators or advanced High School Students. We do not recommend beginning with these drones or introducing them to students under 16 years old, as they are fast, powerful, and potentially more dangerous.
Best Safety Practices in the Classroom
As promised (and always encouraged!) here are our Recommended Safety Guidelines when introducing Drones into the classroom.
Do not fly drones over people or students. Pre-determine a designated flight area where the drones can operate freely and no one is at risk of a bodily collision with a drone that is in flight.
Educators or Students with longer hair should tie back or secure their hair with a hat to prevent any entanglement with the propellers of the drone when spinning. This also applies to any loose clothing or hanging cables or artwork that may be suspended in the classroom.
Avoid reaching or grabbing for the drone, and instead opt for an open-hand landing, by choosing “Abort Mission” and creating a flat surface from your hand for the drone to land upon.
Manage the number of drones in flight at one time. This will depend on the size of the room, as well as the number of people in the room.
Eye protection or safety glasses are highly recommended to mitigate any risk of eye injury.
Work in teams, or pairs, so that each drone has a visual observer (VO) “spotter” in addition to the student piloting the mission.
After the drone collisions or crashes, inspect the drone for any loose propellers or damaged parts before launching a new mission. Be sure all propellers are secure before the flight.
Be aware of environmental factors that may affect flight…such as wind gusts coming through open windows, or strong wind coming from air vents.
Well, I hope we answered some of your most pressing questions and brought you back down to Earth! Drones are an exciting way to bring STEM skills to your students and we’re here to help make it easy.
Transform traditional classrooms into future-ready learning hubs with DroneBlocks. Our comprehensive drone STEM curriculum, interactive apps, and kits are designed for students at all educational levels.