As drones become one of the most sought-after STEM tools in classrooms, there’s a new tool out there that’s not a drone: lesson plans.
There’s a burgeoning industry out there of groups that are putting together drone training courseware designed to be implemented in schools, clubs or other STEM-training programs, particularly focused around grade school (age 5-18) students.
Here are some of the biggest ones out there:
World of Drones Education
World of Drones Education is a web portal for educators that curates content for teachers, produces STEM master classes for the STEM world, and offers up other learning supplements such as a blog, vlog, podcast, and webinar platform. It’s a sort of t‘Netflix’ of STEM resources for teachers, educators, corporates, and parents, including lesson plans on demand (for an extra fee).
The Australian-based site has tons of Australian-related drone content, but also extensively covers U.S. rules and regulations, along with rules in some other major countries.
Target age demographic: Ages 10-16
- Guide to Getting Started with Drones in Schools:
- Who are CASA
- Drone Education Aligned to the Australian Curriculum Years 5 – 10
- Safety Considerations for Lessons
- What the drone rules are around the world
- CASA Australia
- FAA USA
- Airshare NZ
Price tag: VIP Level Access costs $500 AUD annually for industry and corporate members*. The Basic Education Package costs $0 for teachers and educators (must submit a brief application to be considered for $0 membership)
*Corporate membership includes extras that Basic package does not include, such as VIP-invite industry events. On-demand lesson plans are available for an additional fee.
World of Drones Education’s claim to fame: World of Drones Education is the brainchild of Dr. Catherine Ball, who also created the annual World of Drones Congress conference in Australia. Dr. Ball is known for her humanitarian drone work and has worked on past drone projects such as SheFlies.
Women Who Drone School Curriculum
But their real star training piece is curriculum designed specifically for middle and high schools, tailored to those schools’ needs.
The Women Who Drone team meets with school leadership to get an understanding of what drone curriculum they want implemented in their classrooms. From there, that schools’ teachers go through a weekend-long professional development workshop with Women Who Drone to learn how to teach the curriculum.
Additionally, Women Who Drone pilots revisit the classroom 2-3x per week to help out, particularly during flight days.
Target age demographic for students: Middle and high school students (age 12-17)
- Intro to drones: Basic understanding of how to set-up and trouble shoot a drone
- Drone operations: laws and regulations, and navigating drone applications
- Photography: basics including ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, coupled with how to utilize and apply intelligent flight features to achieve creative shots
- Intro to 3D mapping: By the end of the course, students will be confident in utilizing Drone Deploy mapping software to complete a mapping and/or data collection project. Course concepts include mapping projects, software, construction, agriculture, engineering and data collection
- Advanced Aerial Drone Operations + Part 107 Exam Prep” course: higher-level course concepts including drone laws, airspace, weather and sectional maps
Price tag: $5,000-$30,000 (price includes equipment, training and in-classroom support)
The price variance is due to factors such as length of program (after-school vs. traditional class, or summer school vs. year-round).
Women Who Drone founder Elena Buenrostro said that they are planning to launch Girls Who Drone, a non-profit dedicated to providing free drone curriculum to schools, and said the team is currently in the process of obtaining 501(c)3 status.
Women Who Drone’s claim to fame: Women Who Drone was founded by drone pilot and entrepreneur Elena Buenrostro, who started offering drone classes through Airbnb Experiences, and has since expanded her business to a team of women who teach drone classes around the world, host meetups and more.
Women Who Drone already has contracts with schools to implement after-school and full semester programs for the upcoming new school year. They’re also working currently with NYC Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.
SkyOp Drone Training Curriculum
SkyOp‘s drone training courseware is designed to be integrated into high school, STEM and college credit programs. SkyOp licenses the curriculum for an annual fee to teachers, while also providing them training.
Upon joining the program, you’ll be given access to the company’s SkyOp learning management system, which is updated in real-time with the most-current regulations and to keep pace with the high-speed evolution of drone technology. The program is designed for teachers to pass on the information they’ve learned through SkyOp via the company’s curriculum, which includes the basics of flight, practiced hands-on flight time, and data collection and data management skills.
Since the program includes gear, such as the DJI Phantom 4, the school can purchase the class materials and equipment from SkyOp or source it themselves.
Target age demographic for students: high school, Career Technical Education programs and Pathways In Technology Early College High School programs
Skills covered: regulatory information, operational and technical knowledge about drones, data collection and analysis workflows
Among the modules covered in the course include:
- Intro to Drones: A basic overview of drones, how they function and fly, both with and without GPS
- Part 107 Test Prep: Covers information necessary to become a fully- licensed drone pilots
- Hands-On Drone Flight Training with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro: Outdoor flight training on the DJI Phantom 4 Pro
- Drone Photo and Video Production: Photo and video capturing, plus how to manage and edit your work
- Intro to Autonomous Drone Apps with Hands-On Flight Training: How to program autonomous missions for commercial drone deployments
- Intro to Pix4D: How to use an advanced photogrammetry software package to turn raw data into action, including orthomosaic mapping, 3D modeling, point clouds, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Price tag: SkyOp charges programs who commit to one year (and have up to 25 students) $14,990 annually. There’s a slight discount for a 3-year commitment ($13,490 annually). For that price, you’ll get instructor and student versions of what is essentially an electronic textbook, plus software and flight systems and student material kits. There’s also an instructor training fee of $6,700 for 62 hours of online training and 40 hours of in-person training.
But given the price tag, which might be steep for programs without an abundance of funding, SkyOp is hoping to pair corporate sponsors with local school districts to pay for it. The company operates their own matchmaker program, and suggests that interested parties (both corporate sponsors and STEM programs) get in touch with them at this link.
SkyOp’s claim to fame: SkyOp has run its pilot programs in partnership with Hudson Valley Community College and the U.S. Department of Labor which launched a drone training curriculum through the U.S. Job Corps in Oneonta, NY. SkyOp also recently received a New York State contract with Board of Cooperative Education Services career and technical education programs for their STEM Drone Program, and now has several schools implementing their program.
Other online courses
If you’re just looking for drone training, rather than lesson plans, there are tons more options. In some cases, such as homeschooling or teaching drones as part of a broader topic, it may make sense to not teach the content yourself, but have students enroll in an existing online drone course.
FAA Part 107 courses for US pilots
Many of the online courses revolve around Part 107 test prep. Under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, anyone in the U.S. wanting to operate a drone commercially needs to obtain a drone pilot license, which you get by passing an in-person written exam. Here are some of the Part 107 test prep courses I like:
A Part 107 online course if you want peace of mind about not failing: Drone Launch Academy
The $200 Drone Launch Academy online course can provide you peace of mind about passing. If you fail your in-person exam, Drone Launch Academy will pay for you to retake it, which is an $150 value in itself, on top of a course refund (an additional $199 value).
- Price: $199 (plus use coupon code DRONEGIRL50 to save $50 and bring your price down to just $149)
- Time needed to complete: 5 hours to watch the videos straight through, or 15 hours to go through all the study materials
- What’s included in the price tag: video lectures, 200 practice questions including actual FAA questions, 75 page downloadable e-book study guide
The best Part 107 online test prep program with a big community for support: Drone Pilot Ground School
Drone Pilot Ground School is tried-and-true; in fact, it’s what I (The Drone Girl) used to pass my Part 107 test on the first try, and has served thousands of other students. It also includes a wonderful network of drone pilots in a vibrant forum, an informative weekly newsletter and more.
- Price: $299 (plus use coupon code DRONEGIRL50 to save $50 and bring your price down to just $249)
- Time needed to complete: 15-20 hours
- What’s included in the price tag: video lectures, 300 practice questions including actual FAA questions, 12 page cram sheet, 1:1 customer support
Aerial photography courses
Offered by the folks at Drone Launch Academy, Aerial Video A to Z teaches techniques for filming, flying, and editing.
- Price: $397
- Time needed to complete: 3 hours to watch video, plus work at your own pace
- What’s included in the price tag: Lifetime access to 40 modules with over 3 hours of video instruction for gear, settings, flying, filming, editing, color correcting, adding effects, mixing audio, and exporting…along with printable text guides, 71 clips of 4k stock drone footage to work with and unlimited email support