Teaching DRONES In a robotics class

We are thinking of adding some drone lessons into our robotics curriculum for next year and starting to do our research. We are starting a robotics class within our school day and thought teaching STEM through drones would be an interesting approach to add to an FTC or VEX curriculum.

We are looking for anyone out there who is building them in a classroom setting or has any lessons available to share. Any suggestion, ideas, or thoughts are very welcome. Just thought I would ask the best source I know of for help. Thanks for all you do.

What do you mean by drone?

Remotely controlled flying copters. … Quadcopters

Bluejackets - if you are looking at building quadcopters in your robotics class, please PM me. Becker is looking at curriculum for our own robotics class and this came up in a recent discussion.

I know that you are going to be in Duluth next weekend - I will try to be there to meet up with you.

Great to see C-I has a strong FRC team!

I think they mean a monotonous musical note http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_(music) :rolleyes:

But really, I’d assume quadcopters and hexacopter style drones. To get started and just gain a bit of experience why not pick up a Parrot AR Drone? Quite honestly you’d have a hard time building a reliable quadcopter for less money, and you can do a few hacks to this one to make it more programmable. http://dronehacks.com/

You might even want to include a unit on terminology and discuss how the term “drone” compares to the term “UAV” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle Both include fixed wing aircraft as well as rotary, and there is a lot of stuff you can do with the fixed wing planes as well.

Personally I don’t have a lot of experience with building rotary UAVs with students, but fixed wing aircraft can be reasonably priced. I did tethered electric airplanes with my junior students and radio controlled “foamies” with my seniors.



We started an RC flyers club on campus, and are currently building a heavy lift hexicopter for our Video Productions class.

If I had it to do all over again I would have had them start much smaller, like a blackout, or one of the many arduino based quads…We also have a number of micro Hubsan x4s…$40 on amazon for training pilots.

The hex has flown a few times…Suffered a major crash last week, (Got lost in the sun and flown into a tree and then fell onto a concrete walkway from about 40 feet up…)and due to lunar new years won’t be fixed until late march, maybe April…

I think part of my issue is with the fact that the kids were really working from scratch with very little support, and they didn’t/weren’t able to do their research properly which has led to some issues.

Here is a link to the shopping list for the hex that we built. After the last crash we will have spent about 2K on the project through a grant.



If you are teaching best to get the terminology down for the students…

A drone can be any unmanned, remotely/autonomously guided vehicle, in the air on land on or under water.

A UAV is always an airborne vehicle (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)

A Quadcopter is a helicopter with 4 rotors. It might be unmanned, it might be manned

So teaching DRONES would include air, land and water unmanned remotely/autonomously controlled vehicles… I think you are really talking about teaching “UAV Drones that are specifically unmanned Quadcopters.”

I love this idea, as I have been personally building both recreational and commercial (making money by filming for real estate) and I know it is a great way to learn and is also very fun. I would recommend giving www.hobbyking.com a look as they should have everything you need to get started, with very inexpensive parts that are quite good. I would highly recommend their KK2.1.5 board, which is very stable and only $30. Be sure to have the kids learn on a flight simulator first, as these things are not the easiest to fly without gps equipment which costs an awful amount of money. Also, there is a vast database of knowledge on forums like rcgroups.com and also on flitetest.com’s articles, which have far more information than I could ever suggest on a CD post. Good luck, and above all, Happy Flying!

Sweet, this is an awesome idea. I have been trying to get somthing like this started. I have gotten to the point were i might be helping some people build some quad copters for hobby hobby/fun. But would lave to start a class or something.

What size/type are you planning on building? Are you planning on doing something with FPV or just line of sight flying?

I am absolutely infatuated with quad copters, I own a Hubsan x4 and hopefully can upgrade to something along the lines of a DJI Phantom in the future. This would be a brilliant idea to implement in the classroom. Also, when pitching the curriculum to the school, I would recommend trying to avoid the word “drone” as it tends to have a negative connotation among those who are ill-informed of their multi-purpose and solely focus on their militaristic uses.

My strongest recommendation would be to buy one or two of the WL v911 single rotor helicopters because similar to most intermediate quad copters, it’s 4 channels. (Throttle, Pitch, Roll, and Yaw) Also, the v911 is fairly durable in my experience, which means you can afford to have several mistakes. Hence, if you can master flying the v911, most if not all 4 channel quads should be an absolute breeze to handle. Moral of the story; start cheap and work your way up, my friend’s uncle bought a 300 dollar quad (AR Drone) and flew it right into a lake :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m actually taking a seminar at the University of Minnesota this semester that involves building and modifying a quadcopter for a competition. It’s run by the professor who runs the Community College Quadcopter Competition. We’re using a Parallax ELEV-8 V2, which is a relatively high-grade DIY quadcopter. It’s been very interesting and I’ve learned a lot, but there are quite a few kinks to work out, and I’d highly recommend that the teacher has experience troubleshooting wireless transmitters and standard electrical stuff (though this isn’t as much of an issue if that teacher is also a FIRST mentor).

If you want to see what my class consists of, you can check out the course page here (apologies for the Aerospace department website still being stuck in the 90’s). Feel free to email me if you’d like a student’s perspective. In my opinion there’s nothing we’re doing (time or skill wise) that couldn’t be done by high school students meeting in a daily or block class.

Another thing: I’d highly recommend training the students with cheap “toy” quadcopters before letting them fly anything large. Also mandated rotor protection will save you a lot of pain.

EDIT: It’s come to my attention that the link to the course page isn’t accessible to non-UMN students. If you’d like to see a syllabus or course schedule, PM me instead.

Using model aircraft for commercial purposes is currently against FAA regulations. There are proposed regulations that just came out to allow commercial use, but those aren’t approved yet.

Actually it is not illegal. The FAA has only come out with Proposed Rules and Regulations. These are not legally laws and therefore cannot be enforced as laws. In the late 40s or early 50s the FAA got a law passed through congress that transferred all regulating authority to community based organizations, What has now become the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) This body has not as of yet come out with and rules about commercial use of Drones/UAVs.

Disclaimer: this post is the result of my research. If i am wrong somebody please correct me.

According to these links, you need FAA approval for commercial use.
The AMA only governs hobby aircraft.

Hmmmmm… Interesting to know, makes me wonder how some people are able to fly for documentary companies and real-estate agents?

They either don’t know the law/regulation, or they ignore it. Or, in some cases, they have a waiver. Incidentally, rules and regulations–once confirmed–can be, and are, enforced as laws, if they’re issued by a government agency. See “ITAR”.

And Chris is right: AMA doesn’t touch the commercial stuff, just hobby. If you’re flying “commercial”, as far as I know (not very) AMA doesn’t cover any “incidents”, unlike if you’re flying hobby in accordance with their safety rules.

OP, there is one thing that you will need to include, probably as the first item in the class: Safety. The plane the props rotate in is known as “the plane of death” to some, because if a prop breaks for some reason, everything in that plane for some distance is at risk of getting hurt. Even on a quadcopter…

As of right now, there is no official law governing the use of model aircraft for commercial purposes, as their previous regulation was revoked after the comment period. The FAA proposed new ruling which you can find on Flitetest’s facebook page. However, these are just a draft and as of now it is perfectly legal to use model aircraft for aerial photography.

At this point the government has their heads up there bums. It is practically impossible for someone to spy with a drone, you cannot have enough control over the camera to create the proper exposure. Also people have to keeping using multi rotors commercially they have spent thousands of dollars to get one up in the air. if anyone disagrees with me please email me were will have a fun chat.
[email protected]

No, they’re just behind–there’s a “hole” between the technology and what the regulations are right now (which does seem to be a continuing problem, but that’s another topic of discussion). And durn right you can’t spy with a drone, what do you think Global Hawk, Predator, and Reaper are up to right now? (If you want to argue that those aren’t drones… good luck.)

I’ve seen drones operated not for commercial use–guess what, they’re pretty good at their imaging. A decent one could take some video (or still frames) and maybe not see what book you were reading, but that you were reading one. Heck, I’ve heard of a standard camera mounted to the bottom of a single-rotor R/C chopper and sent out hunting for a fixed-wing R/C that had gone down in thick brush, and they found that R/C and brought it back.

Let me put it this way: Those people that spent the money knew (hopefully) that they were taking the risk that they would not be allowed to use their technology commercially for a while, if at all. It’s called business venture, and capitalism. Maybe it pans out, maybe it doesn’t. Sometimes, this stuff just happens.

When i was saying drones can not spy i was meaning non government privately owned drones. What people are scared of is them hitting someone or getting close to your window. Predetors and drones of the like are meant to track military movement. They do not have the capability to get right up to your window. Before you start to defend the government that they are behind in regulations they do not know what they are regulating at all! have you even read them, To fly a model aircraft you have to be 17 or older give me a break! jamesmcip and i are better than 99% of people over 17 but it will make it illegal for us to fly. How is there a technological gap in that.
But if you would like to talk more please email me.