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The Future is Now: Preparing Students for the Drone Revolution

Published: July 25, 2023
An elementary-age student operates a small drone through an obstacle in a classroom while his classmate watches on.

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    Whoosh! That's the sound of a drone zipping by, soaring through the skies. It's a sound that's become increasingly familiar as drones have shifted from military tech to commercial and civilian use. And let's face it, drones are cool! 

    But, did you know they're more than just cool tech toys?

    These nifty gadgets are playing a significant role in various industries, revolutionizing everything from construction to agriculture, emergency services, and more. With the drone market predicted to reach $41.6 billion by 2026, according to DRONEII, it's clear that drones are not just a passing fad but a critical part of our future.

    How do we prepare our students—our future workforce—to navigate this exciting landscape?

    Let's take a closer look.

    Drones in Infrastructure Monitoring and Maintenance

    A photograph taken by a drone of a set of railway tracks cutting through a forest, taken from far above while the sun is setting.Drone's eye view. Drones help monitor vital infrastructure such as railroads. Copyright The Drone Ranger.

    Infrastructure is everywhere. 

    Roads, bridges, dams, railways, airports, power lines, wind turbines, and so much more. Keeping these crucial structures safe and efficient is no easy task. It's often time-consuming, costly, and potentially dangerous for workers.

    Cue the drones.

    Drones—or if we're getting technical, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)— are game-changers in this realm. Why? We asked Nathan Sheets of The Drone Ranger for his insights.

    “Drones can easily reach places that are challenging or dangerous for humans to access,” said Sheets. “High-rise buildings, bridges, massive wind turbines—you name it—drones can inspect it.

    “Drones drastically decrease workplace injuries and fatalities. But the industry needs someone to operate them, and that need isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, we have just scratched the surface of the role drones can play in the future of our workforce.”

    Nathan Sheets, aka The Drone Ranger, is a fully licensed fixed-wing commercial pilot with hundreds of hours of flight experience. Copyright The Drone Ranger.

    "The [drone] industry needs someone to operate them, and that need isn’t going away any time soon."

    Nathan Sheets, The Drone Ranger

    Picture this: a drone equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensors swiftly scanning a bridge for structural issues. It's doing this with minimal human intervention, drastically reducing the risk factor associated with manual inspections. It's not just safer; it's also faster and more accurate.

    That's not just a minor improvement; that's a complete game-changer.

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    Drones in Agriculture and Environmental Conservation

    A photograph taken by a drone looking down on cloud-misted mountains at sunset.Drones can play a role in environmental conservation, helping track things like deforestation. Copyright, The Drone Ranger.

    As surprising as it might seem, drones are buzzing their way into farming fields and environmental conservation efforts, showing us that technology and nature can indeed work hand in hand.

    The days of a farmer walking miles to check crops manually are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With drones, farmers can now survey their fields from the sky, collecting detailed data about their crops in a fraction of the time. This is the beauty of precision agriculture.

    Drones, equipped with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities, provide farmers with real-time insights into crop health, soil conditions, and even pest infestations. This allows farmers to manage their fields more efficiently, use resources more sustainably, and increase crop yields. According to a report by Meticulous Research, farming and agriculture drone markets are set to reach a whopping $5.19 billion by 2025

    And it’s not just about crops. Drones are also making significant contributions to livestock management, tracking animal health and movements to prevent loss and improve herd management.

    Turning our gaze to environmental conservation, drones are playing a crucial role here too. They provide researchers with a unique vantage point to monitor and track wildlife populations, helping to protect endangered species. They're also invaluable tools in studying deforestation and other environmental changes, capturing high-resolution images that can highlight the impacts of climate change.

    In the hands of students, drones open up a whole new world of exploration. 

    Afterschool programs that incorporate drone technology provide an engaging and hands-on introduction to agriculture and environmental science. Students learn about sustainable farming practices, data analysis, and how technology can aid in solving complex environmental issues. They may even find themselves drawn towards careers as drone specialists in agriculture, environmental scientists, or sustainability consultants.

    In a world increasingly concerned with sustainable food sources and green technologies, the combination of drone tech and environmental education is not just timely. It’s essential. This exciting intersection of technology and nature will be a source of collaboration and inspiration for the next generation of green tech leaders.

    Drones in Emergency Services and Healthcare

    Drones are heroes, too! 

    Emergencies and disasters are, unfortunately, a part of our world. Whether it's a natural disaster like a hurricane or a wildfire, or a man-made crisis, these situations require swift, efficient, and often daring responses. 

    This is where drones swoop in.

    Drones provide an eye in the sky when disaster strikes. Equipped with cameras and sensors, they offer a birds-eye view of the affected area, helping disaster management teams assess the extent of the damage without putting more lives at risk. They can quickly scan large areas, identify blocked roads, damaged infrastructure, and other hazards. This helps in effective planning and coordination of rescue efforts.

    Remember Hurricane Harvey that wreaked havoc in Texas back in 2017? FEMA used drones to assess the damage and plan rescue operations. Drones helped speed up the disaster assessment process, allowing quicker allocation of resources and aid to the affected areas.

    But it's not just about damage assessment. Drones are now becoming integral tools in search and rescue operations. Time is of the essence in these operations, and every second saved can mean the difference between life and death. Drones, under the piloting of local law enforcement, are capable of covering large areas quickly. Equipped with thermal imaging cameras, they can locate missing persons more effectively than traditional methods.

    Moreover, drones can deliver essential supplies like food, water, and medical aid to disaster-stricken areas where ground transportation might be risky or impossible. This rapid delivery system can be a lifeline for people stranded in remote or severely affected areas.

    By introducing students to these real-world applications of drones in emergency services through afterschool programs, we're doing more than just teaching them about drone technology. We're inspiring them to see technology as a tool for positive change, a means to safeguard communities, and potentially save lives.

    Potential career paths range from drone specialists in emergency services to disaster management consultants and public health officials.

    Why drones make great afterschool programs

    A student wearing safety glasses points at a small drone in-flight, offering directions as the operator guides it into an obstacle course.Drones are fun, collaborative, and could be an exciting future-facing career choice. Copyright Work ED.

    Integrating drone technology into afterschool programs is a golden opportunity to inspire students about this rapidly evolving field. By getting hands-on experience, students develop important skills like spatial awareness, precision control, data analysis, and problem-solving. Plus, they get a taste of potential career paths in civil engineering, drone piloting, and data analysis.

    Integrating drone technology in afterschool programs means:

    • Sparking students' interest in high-earning careers such as civil engineering, drone piloting, and data analysis.

    • Developing vital soft skills like spatial awareness, precision control, and problem-solving.

    • Exposing students to a booming industry they might not have been aware of.

    • Running fun, future-facing programs that get students excited about attending afterschool.

    Create your own custom afterschool program

    The drone revolution is here, and it's more than just a buzz. By integrating drone technology into afterschool programs, we're not only giving students an engaging way to learn about an emerging field. We're also helping them envision potential career paths, understand the entrepreneurial spirit driving these industries, and ultimately prepare for the future.

    Ready to help your students soar to new heights? To learn more about integrating drone technology and other innovative career-development modules into your afterschool program, reach out using the form below or email us at

    Our learners today are the leaders of tomorrow. Let's equip them to fly high and dream big!

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