Drones have recently taken the world by storm. So much so that in their 2015 K-12 Horizon Report, The New Media Consortium has earmarked drones as a significant emerging consumer technology over the next five years. Drones are actually Unmanned Systems or Autonomous Vehicles that include robots which can be operated on land, under water and in the air.
A significant ground swell of accessible robot technology began in Australian schools in early 2000, with the launch of LEGO’s RCX programmable brick. Over the last 10 years we have seen the LEGO group develop its suite of educational robotics to include the LEGO NXT, LEGO WeDo, and its latest robotics solution, the LEGO EV3. Dozens of other robotics platforms, such as Edison, Dash and Dot, Ozobot and VEX, have also entered the consumer and educational landscape. By all indications this growth and development of robotics education will continue in schools, as STEM and STEAM activities and skills become increasingly more popular.
But what’s really exciting now is the boom in 3D robotics. That is, robots that can be programmed to swim under water and fly in the air. Drone manufacturing has broadened its reach from predominantly commercial enterprises to consumers and schools thanks largely to improvements in microcontrollers and powerful, light-weight battery technology.
The rapid growth in commercial and consumer drone technology has huge implications, and could possibly be the next big thing to impact, not just schools, but the planet. For example, Drone use over the last five years has included new farming practises, an efficient means of border security and better wildlife conservation such as the monitoring and herding of elephants between bushland and neighbouring farms in Kenya. Other applications have included more accurate underwater mapping, reliable search and rescue, affordable and engaging cinematography, and effective domestic and international military operations.
Drone projects currently being developed for future use include a fully automated parcel delivery system by Amazon, and a solar-powered drone that can act like a satellite with the ability to provide Internet access anywhere in the world – thanks to Mark Zuckerburg and the people at Facebook.
The benefits of introducing drone technology into schools are enormous, particularly given that that a whole new industry and vocation is being developed to design, program, build, operate and fly drones for personal and commercial use.
A growing concern, however, is that government legislation cannot keep up with the infiltration and mass use of drone technology across commercial, private and educational sectors. This includes concerns over privacy, civil liberties, and safety to people on the ground, under water, and in the air!
MacICT have anticipated this growing interest in schools and are in the process of developing a Professional Learning workshop that will serve to demystify drone technology, including the various names and acronyms for drones such as: UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle), UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems), UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) and AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle). We’ll also explain how to implement drones into the classroom setting. MacICT have also begun talks with educational bodies to establish Health and Safety guidelines around their use in schools.
Our first drone PL workshop “All About Drones in Education: Learning to Code 3D Unmanned Systems” will be announced soon.