remote control: a device used to control machines from a distance
roll: rolling movement of a drone sideways left or right on a longitudinal axis
rotor: a set of rotating blades that turn around a central point and lift an aircraft off the ground
satellite: a spacecraft placed in orbit around the Earth, moon, or another planet used to send signals and information as part of a communications system
survey: to measure and examine an area of land
thrust: the force that causes an aircraft to move forward
yaw: rotating movement of an aircraft clockwise or counterclockwise on a vertical axis
drone: an unmanned aircraft guided by remote control or onboard computers
force: a push or a pull on an object
gravity: the natural force that causes things to fall toward the Earth
hover: remain in one place in the air
lift : the force that directly opposes the weight of an aircraft in the air
pitch: the movement of a drone up or down on a lateral axis
precision agriculture: an information technology-based site-specific farm management system that collects and responds to data ensuring that crops receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity
propulsion: the force that moves something forward
quadcopters: a drone with four rotors
Global Positioning System (GPS): a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts farms will eventually account for 80 percent of the commercial drone market.6
Drones were originally designed for military purposes to replace humans on missions that were considered too dangerous, but today they are used for scientific research, agriculture, recreation, surveillance, police work, storm tracking, search and rescue, photography, filming, and racing.7
Drones were banned in all US National Parks after a tourist crashed one into a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.7
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Take the class to a large field free of trees or overhead wires or into a gymnasium.
Show the students the quadcopter drone. Explain that drones either have fixed wings or rotors. Drones with four rotors are called quadcopters.
Perform a demonstration of the drone's capabilities including take off, hover, maneuvers in the air, filming video, taking photographs, and landing. (If flying the drone outside, a cardboard, wood, foam, or rubber landing pad is recommended. Long grass can interfere with the drone's rotors.)
Arrange the students into small groups. Ask the groups to make a list of different ways in which a drone might be useful to people.
Have each group share their ideas with the class.
Explain to the students that, in this lesson, they will discover how a drone flies, explore how drones are used in agriculture, and program and operate a drone to monitor grazing sheep.
Activity 1: How Does a Drone Fly?
Ask the students, "How do drones fly?" After listening to their responses, lead a discussion about gravity and lift. Integrate the following points into the discussion:
Gravity is the natural force that causes things to fall toward the Earth.
Lift is the force that directly opposes the weight of the aircraft and holds the aircraft in the air.
Quadcopter drones use rotors to help the drone lift off the ground and fly.
As the rotor pushes down on the air, air pushes up on the rotor.
In order for the drone to fly into the air, a force that equals or exceeds the force of gravity must be created. This is called lift.
The faster the rotors spin, the greater the lift.
Turn on a hair dryer and aim it towards the ceiling. Place a ping pong ball into the stream of air. Ask the students, "Why is the ping pong ball floating?" (The force of the air pushing up on the ball is equal to the force of gravity pushing down on the ball, so the ball is hovering in the air.)
Ask the students what they think will happen to the ping pong ball if the hair dryer is turned off. Turn the hair dryer off to show the students that the ball will fall to the ground. Ask the students, "Why does the ping pong ball fall when the hair dryer is turned off?" (The force of the air pushing up on the ball is less than the force of gravity pushing down on the ball.)
Hand out two 2" x 6" pieces of paper and a paper clip to each student. Instruct the students to crumple one of the pieces of paper into a ball. Use the following instructions to make a rotor with the other piece of paper.
Hold the paper so that the 2" edges are at the top and bottom.
Fold the paper in half vertically.
Unfold the paper, and draw a horizontal line 2" from the top and a horizontal line 3" from the bottom.
From the top, cut down the middle fold to the 2" line. Fold one of the flaps forward and the other flap backward on the line to make the rotor's blades.
On the other line, make a mark 5/8" from the right. Make a cut along the line from the right stopping at the 5/8" mark.
On the same line, make a mark 5/8" from the left. Make a cut along the line from the left stopping at the 5/8" mark.
Draw a line from each 5/8" mark to the bottom of the paper. Fold the paper into the middle along each of these lines.
Draw a horizontal line 1" from the bottom. Fold the paper along this line and place a paper clip on the fold.
Have the students carefully stand on their chairs and drop their crumpled ball and their rotor (paper clip facing down) at the same time from the same height.
Ask the students, "Which stayed in the air the longest, the crumpled ball or the rotor?" (the rotor) "Why did the rotor stay in the air longer?" (The design of the rotor causes the blades to spin as it falls through the air. The spinning blades generate enough lift to slow the rotor down.)
Show the students the rotors on the quadcopter drone. Clarify that, unlike the paper rotor, the drone's rotors are powered by motors that can create and maintain a force that is equal to or greater than the force of gravity. The rotors help the drone lift off the ground and fly.
Show the students the video How Do Drones Fly? for an explanation of how rotors help drones move in different directions.
Provide a demonstration about how to fly the class drone using a smartphone or tablet as a remote control. Include an explanation of the safety guidelines listed in the Background Agricultural Connections section of this lesson.
Activity 2: Drones in Agriculture
Organize the class into three groups. Handout an Agricultural Drones Discussion Guide to each student, and provide each group with a copy of Agricultural Drones by Simon Rose. Assign one group to read chapter 2, one group to read chapter 3, and one group to read chapter 4.
After reading their assigned chapter together, have each group discuss the chapter and work together to complete the corresponding section of the Agricultural Drones Discussion Guide.
Reorganize the class into groups of three students that include a representative from each of the three chapters. Each representative should take a turn summarizing their assigned chapter and help the rest of the group complete that section of the Agricultural Drones Discussion Guide.
After the discussion guides have been completed, view the Sheep Farming Prezi to lead a class discussion about the usefulness of drones for raising sheep.
Activity 3: Drone Mission
Prior to beginning Activity 3, identify a large, rectangular field or gymnasium to represent a sheep ranch.
Organize the class into groups of four students. Assign each group a number 1-9. Hand out a Drone Mission Activity Packet to each student.
Read the farming challenge aloud to the class. "Imagine that you are a rancher, and you raise sheep. Your 25 sheep are grazing in a large, hilly area surrounded by fences. The area is so large that it is difficult to monitor the entire area even with horses or all-terrain vehicles. You have just purchased a drone to help monitor the sheep. You will need to program a flight plan for the drone and take aerial photographs and videos of the grazing area. Examine the images captured by the drone's camera to identify problems, and determine how to resolve the problems."
Model for the students how to fly the drone manually and capture video by flying the drone around the perimeter of the ranch. Fly and video three separate drone missions. Before each mission, set up the field or gymnasium floor according to the following instructions:
Groups 1, 2, & 3: Place 22 Sheep Cards onto different spots on the field or gymnasium floor. Place 4 pieces of colored poster paper onto different spots along the perimeter of the ranch. Attach 4 "broken fence" Ranch Problem Signs onto each poster.
Groups 4, 5, & 6: Place 27 Sheep Cards and 4 pieces of colored poster paperonto different spots on the field or gymnasium floor. Attach 4 "lambing ewe" Ranch Problem Signs onto each poster.
Group 7, 8, & 9: Place 24 Sheep Cards and 4 pieces of colored poster paper onto different spots on the field or gymnasium floor. Attach1 "leaking water trough," 1 "coyote sighted," and 2 "sick sheep" Ranch Problem Signs onto the each poster.
Have the groupsuse their video footage to gather the following information:
Count the number of sheep. Are any sheep missing? Have any lambs been born?
Map out the problem areas in the rectangle under Step 1 in the Drone Mission Activity Packet.
Assign a number 1-4 to each problem area.
Have each group take turns manually flying the drone over the ranch taking an aerial photo of each problem area. Each student in the group will fly the drone over and photograph one of the four problem areas. The first person will fly over and photograph problem area 1, the second person will fly over and photograph problem area 2, and so on. Reset the field or gymnasium according to the instructions in Procedure 4.
The groups will examine their photographs and record the problems and the solutions they come up with in the Drone Mission Activity Packet.
Explain to the students that the missions they just flew were flown manually using a remote control (smartphone or tablet). Sometimes farmers manually fly drones over their farms. Other times farmers program flight plans so that the drone can repeat flight paths without having to be flown manually.
Explain to the students that they are going to work in their groups to program flight paths over the problems areas. Have the groups choose from the flight commands in the Drone Mission Activity Packet to create their flight path. The flight path should meet the following requirements:
The drone may begin at any location along the perimeter of the field.
The drone must takeoff and land at the same location.
The drone must fly over every problem area and hover for 5 seconds. (Students will not have the ability to capture videos or photographs during the programmed flight.)
Check each group's flight plan for any commands which could result in an unsafe situation or damage to the drone. Have the groups make any necessary adjustments.
Have each group enter their flight plan into the DroneBlocks App by dragging, dropping, and connecting the command blocks.
Allow time for each group to test their flight plan by launching their mission. The groups should check the boxes in step 4 of their Drone Mission Activity Packet for each requirement that was successfully met during the test. Adjustments should be made and tested until each box can be checked off.
Tech Tip: On occasion, the Tello drone will fail to respond to a particular programmed command from DroneBlocks. Adding a 2 second hover before the failed command may solve the problem. The DroneBlocks Community on Facebook can be a helpful troubleshooting resource.
As a class, discuss the benefits of using a drone to have a birds-eye-view of a farm. Integrate the following points into the discussion:
Farmers can monitor large areas that would be difficult to otherwise monitor.
The birds-eye-view of a drone can improve production, efficiency, and yields by identifying small problems before they become big problems.
Solutions can be applied with precision and accuracy saving time, money, and resources.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
A drone is an unmanned aircraft guided by remote control or onboard computers.
In order for a drone to fly in the air, a force that equals or exceeds the force of gravity must be created. This is called lift.
Drone applications in agriculture include mapping, surveying, monitoring, planting, crop dusting, and spraying.
Agricultural drones can increase yields, save time and money, and assist with animal and crop monitoring, planning, and management.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
For students with access to a 3D printer, consider designing and printing drone parts and attachments. Search thingiverse.com for design inspiration.
Describe how new technologies have changes political, economic, and social interactions.
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
Discuss how technology has changed over time to help farmers/ranchers provide more food to more people (T4.6-8.d)
Identify specific technologies that have reduced labor in agriculture (T4.6-8.h)
Provide examples of science and technology used in agricultural systems (e.g., GPS, artificial insemination, biotechnology, soil testing, ethanol production, etc.); explain how they meet our basic needs, and detail their social, economic, and environmental impacts (T4.6-8.i)
Science and technology have changed peoples' perceptions of the social and natural world, as well as their relationship to the land, economy and trade, their concept of security, and their major daily activities.
Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.