Drones at school: flying to learn

Vun Giovanni MarcianòTeacher ITIS Quintino Sella – Biele e
Simonetta SiegaPart of the Piedmont Territorial Training Team for the Ministry of Education

The experience of National network of schools “Robocup Jr Italia” born tol 2008 of eight Italian ITIS in Piedmont, Veneto and Sicily, in 2020 it started: from terrestrial robotics to flying robotics, based on drones: “In the coming years it is understood that it could be stabilized flight the new area of ​​attention for young students passionate about innovative technologies, and aerospace field to be actively explored and studied.

With the proliferation of drones, says the scientific director of Robocup Jr. Network, born in 2008, the school is challenged to offer a new education: “Flight Education” respects the “Code of the Air” and the promotion of the necessary safety, of which the drones gave rise to life. European regulation dictates rules and, as we all know, provides for severe sanctions.


To start more and more schools in this new technological sector, we are replicating the teaching approach and methodology (LRE) that favored the development of the “Educational Robotics” in the Italian school between 2002 and 2020. In this sense, the know-how of the first national network of schools “Robocup Jr Italia it allowed us to advance and carry out an effective research and experimentation action, the first results of which are published here.

Fly to learn

The question is, of course why use drones in school? Of course for “flying to learn”, as the “Flight School” feature is already present in many aeroclubs, which are reorganizing to give certifications to UAV pilots for professional purposes (“specific” class).
But even more, we want to encourage other institutes to learn about the potential that – even in the “open” class – can represent flying activity. Because we have seen how the real flight, much more than aroused by virtual technologies, emotions and challenges compared to a context – the sky and the three dimensions in which you fly – that usually require dormant and unexpressed skills.

We have seen that the experience ofl Remote piloting in school – laboratory contextle, where a student is challenged to try to master remote pilot techniques, stimulates attention and concentration on the factors at playnot least in rapid Self-awareness of one’s own boundariesmotivates the effort to overcome them.

The concrete reality of a drone in flight is unparalleled with the perceptions changed by 3D viewers, augmented reality technologies and other techniques that distance the person from the direct and concretely controllable perception of a real environment in which to learn by twirling your drone between the ground and the sky, close – far from us, around us at different heights. Alone or in swarm with other drones.

How many students and teachers have this experience? No data or statistics are available on the matter. But it’s easy to find clues on social networks of teachers who use a drone in their free time, and some of them even take it to school to show it to children. The contact with some of these, however, confirmed that there is no experience to fly students with a (small) drone, nor to inform about the rules and attention, to make it safe, personally or at school. What we can say is this the first experiments took place at the ITIS Quintino Sella in Biella from 2 to 31 May 2021, personally conducted by the writer, who – in addition to the personal curriculum of the researcher in the field of TD – won over 400 hours of APR piloting and “Open Category” Contexts.

Overview of the institute with drones obtained

The process involves six units of staff in the service – Graduate teachers, ITP and AT – for a start on the use of UAVs in the school context and give them initial training and safe use.
They were used four Class C0 APRs (weight less than 250 g) of the last generation, test its use in school environments typical of high school, and seek their compliance with the rules of the air and safety regulations in force. A flight session was also organized at an authorized airportoperated by model aircraft of Biella, examines the feasibility of collaborating with local issues traditionally active in the sector.
The final results confirm theoretical premises, but even more so have made it possible to implement certain elements with respect to the relevant prerequisites for safe in school contexts. All experienced knowledge has become elements of the training course, for which documentation materials and videos have been developed that can facilitate the replicability of the project at other higher institutions.
All participants in the process then received the EASA A1 /A3 to complete the APR, take the online course and pass the required theoretical test. Based on these experiences and qualifications, the first activities are underway with IV – V year students, in which the APR pilot competence is functional for topics of in-depth curricula related to professional contexts, in which the APR is an operational tool in the service of Reference professionals for ITIS addresses, but also for research and study in sectors related to the way of Liceo Scientifico Applied Sciences.

Drones also for primary and secondary school children

The little ones with toy drones

In light of the success of the first trial, and with the aim of to digest the problems related to the age of the first cycle students, that in the new regulatory context does not allow them to make an APR, and also in terms of the required competencies / skills perplexity, a second experiment took place between October 2021 and April 2022 in the first cycle of education, thanks to the availability one Verbano Cusio Ossola Schools led by CTI of Domodossola. The experiments were performed by Drs. Simonetta Siega (who participated in the first experiments, as well as had a personal researcher curriculum and was in possession of the certificate EASA A1 / A3) Students personally involved, both to educate them in the correct use of a toy Drone2 and for a first examination ofthe possible uses in the schooland, as well as the general aspect of education and the correct and safe use of these technological products.

Simonetta Siega thus recounts the experience with children: “In my personal experience with drones I have noticed how much this commitment to the outside world has helped me to overcome the tensions and inconveniences that have accumulated during the forced blockade. Truly a liberating experience. After doing the experiments in Biella successfully completed, I had the idea to try to imagine how to drive young children an object that is not only technological, innovative but also flying !. The proposal I submitted to prof. Marcianò therefore led to the development of this second experiment, even more challenging because it requires both the problem of adopting the correct equipment and the specific skills / competencies possible for students at an early age. Items to be explored and known in the field, in the current application.

The response of the younger children was enthusiastic, as from the comments of the Primary school students:

  • A few days ago, my partner M. and I had some experience with the drone. I enjoyed it and did not know that the drone could rotate.
  • “I’ve never tried a drone before. It was easy, sometimes I could not move forward because the drone was going to the left; I looked at the drone and did not pay attention to the movement of the fingers on the remote control. I had a lot of fun with the drone and learned how to take off and land.
  • “Today I had fun, we did the ignition test to get it going and landing, the skill test. Was pedagogical (um, here the teacher has to say about grammar, but she appreciates the creativity of neologism, Ed.) is very funny. “

And so do I. Middle school kidsand they appreciate:

  • “This activity was very fun and an alternative to what could be a simple school activity. After never ‘driving’ a drone, I was able to learn to understand different space conditions. I did some ‘routes’, I did it too. managed to improve me compared to the first meeting and keep my hand a little more steady [sul radio comando]”.
  • “Actually, I do not know how to describe it, but I know it was a unique and wonderful experience, I hope there are high opportunities to do this beautiful project, because I personally liked it!”
  • “I felt happy when he left. I felt good how I was able to do the ‘stunts’. [evoluzioni su rotte geometriche]. It was fun, I love it. “
  • “I really enjoyed this experience because we made a lot of geometric shapes with the drone, including the circle I like the most. We had to take it off the ground and move it.”

But why do all these emotions trigger triggers?
Literature could offer a very suggestive answer: “Flying is one of humanity’s greatest dreams, one of the most ambitious projects man has come upon me, a path that many of the brilliant minds have seen in trying , in which the story bears witness “.
Today we do not want to think about how to learn to flybut trying to fly the younger children from primary and secondary school closer to the experience with drones, to complete their experience of the world in which we live and operate.

An unexpected result is better understood as important it is not only educating children and teachers in school but also families and society to dispel many clichés and fake news about these technologically advanced tools to see the beauty of this experience and at the same time be aware of the risks; hence the widespread sense of RESPONSIBILITY that every RPA driver must have independently.
Technologies always have this dual aspect: on the one hand to bring about innovation, but on the other hand to make security less stable. And as far as the use of the network is concerned, it is never useful for the Internet to ban its use, but to educate the safe use of the network; so with drones you can not leave such an important use as that of RPAs to the simple common sense.

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