By the end of 2025, The Economic Report projects the drone market to be worth more than $82.1 billion. This influx in demand will account for an estimated 100,000+ new jobs, many of them anticipated to be filled by young professionals familiar with the technology. In response to this trend, teachers around the country are integrating drones into their curriculums to expand students' career opportunities and better prepare them for the workforce.
Drones in the Classroom
For some students, drone instruction begins in elementary school. At Vista Peak Exploratory School in Aurora, Colorado, children learn first-hand how to pilot a drone from inside their library. After navigating obstacle courses, they role-play drone pilots in relevant industries such as photography or property management. Explaining this to local news, their instructor, Kimberly Culhane, stated that tasks include photographing dollhouses or following animals to simulate real-life experiences on-the-job.
In middle school, students learn about both the hardware and software used in drone flight. For North Middle Schoolers in Colorado Springs, the physics of how drones work is central to their education. Taking drones apart and putting them back together again gives students the know-how to repair their equipment in the event of a crash. Within the same district, high schoolers build their drones from scratch on Autodesk and use a 3D printer to bring their design to life. From here, they attach a motor, program their drone in Python, and begin flying outside. In this program, teams of 3 take turns portraying the pilot, lookout, and mechanic to understand the full scope of drone flight.
Many high schools customize drone classes to give students a competitive edge after graduation. Often the educators teaching these classes are drone hobbyists as well as FAA-certified, so course completion is contingent upon passing the Part 107 test. Take for instance Hanover Senior High School, where students are eligible to receive their drone pilot license at no additional cost.
At Roseville High School in Minnesota, 95% of students passed the Part 107 test on the first try – representing the first high school class to take the test as a group. As an added benefit to their drone technology-focused curriculum, students could earn college credit transferable to St. Cloud University, the University of North Dakota, or Northland College. Currently, the class is being tailored to include internships with companies in the surrounding community. As of 2019, at least seven universities in the U.S. offer drone programs, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kansas State, and the University of North Carolina.
In addition to college credits, there are numerous benefits to early exposure to drone software. Students across the country are using flight simulators, DJI drones, and GIS technology to become the next generation of drone pilots, ready to fill career opportunities created by drone automation. With the adoption of drone curriculum in more and more schools, a workforce already well-versed in drone technology will be able to fill these technical positions as the industry expands.