Years 7 and 8

Students explore drone photography and its applications. They create a 'dronie', and use aerial photography to assess a model of a disaster zone. They design their own application of drone photography and create a model to demonstrate their idea.

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    Lesson Plan

    Drone search

    Years 7 and 8

Learning intentions


  • explore the applications of aerial photography using drones

  • pilot a drone to gather data

  • interpret visual data

  • design a drone photography application and create a model to demonstrate the application.


Learning hook

  1. Show students the image of 'Nadar' in the hot air balloon. Ask them to investigate the image and come to a consensus about when the image was drawn, where it might be located, and what it depicts.

  2. Following the discussion, reveal that the sketch depicts the French photographer and balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as 'Nadar', in 1858 over Paris. He is credited with being the first to practise aerial photography.

    Explain that aerial photography rapidly matured during World War I – students should be able to suggest why (cartography, military intelligence).

  3. Now, fast-track to today: take students outside to take a 'dronie' (drone selfie) of the whole class. Explain that in this unit, the class will be learning how to pilot a drone (or a UAV – 'unmanned aerial vehicle'), interpret aerial photographs, and design an application for drone photography.

Learning input

  1. Introduce students to safe drone flight protocols. For information about recreational drone use watch the Civil Aviation Safety Authority clip 'Drone rules for Australia' or read the brochure, Flying drones for fun.

  2. Students learn to code the drone to take photographs. When flying the drone, students should work in small groups, rotating the roles of pilot/coder, copilot/bug identifier and safety manager. This could be in the form of 'earn your drone pilot license'. In the first instance, students would fly the drone without a camera attached.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority: Drone rules for Australia

Rules apply when you fly a drone

Learning construction

  1. Dronie: Students code the drone and take a dronie. They should work in groups; each student should attempt the code independently, then refine their code with the help of their group members.

    Note: it is possible to fly a drone using an app and a mobile device that does not require any programming. Some basic drone programs use visual programming, which requires limited programming experience. Drones that use a general purpose programming language may require support for students who are not familiar with programming.

  2. Aerial map: Students will fly a drone over a simulated disaster situation and collect visual data. They will interpret the data to determine the extent of the damage and the disaster response required.

    To set up this activity, create a model in a 2 m x 2 m space of a town that has been struck by a disaster. Use Lego blocks, figurines, toys, natural and recycled materials. Create a barrier (some chairs with a tarp or sheet draped over the top) for the students to sit behind, so that they have no direct visual engagement with the scene.

  3. Before launching their drone, students should create a plan to ensure their mission is efficient and the data collected is thorough.

  4. Students fly their drone over the scene and collect visual data. They interpret their visual data to create a sketch map of the scene, describe the impact of the disaster and request appropriate aid.

Learning input

  1. Explore a range of drone photography applications with students. Five scenarios are provided in the presentation.

    1. Using fleets of drones to cooperatively explore terrain under thick forest canopies
    2. Identifying earthquake damage
    3. Collecting high resolution aerial imagery to inform environmental and social decision-making
    4. Surveying marine litter
    5. Monitoring leopard seals in Antarctica

Learning construction

  1. Students work in small teams to design a new application of drone photography. In designing their application, they should consider the following.

    • What is the problem?

    • What are the current solutions/methods?

    • Why is drone photography a good solution?

  2. Once students have designed their application, they should create a working model to show how their drone will collect visual data.

    Students can present their application and model as a poster, report, presentation or short movie.