Project Daedalus: educational events

As with any new technology, drones have the power to awe, but also to exclude those who might not come into contact with them and consequently may feel that this technology is ‘other’, ‘out of reach’, ‘too expensive’ or ‘not for me’. As part of our event series, we ran one workshop with high school age girls, and one with adult learners with some learning difficulties, exploring what they felt and understood this technology, and giving them the chance to use drones to create their own drone films.

St Ambrose High School Sandpit Event

We visited St Ambrose Barlow High School in Swinton to a run a workshop with a group of Year 9 girls. None of the girls had ever come into contact with drone technology before, or knew a great deal about it.

The aim of the afternoon was to produce a ten-second to one-minute film using a drone. To provide the group with some inspiration we began the session by showing a number of different examples of drone technology being used in imaginative ways.

After splitting into smaller groups, the girls began brainstorming what their films could be about. Each group chose a different story behind their film – from spying to a post-apocalypse – and wasted no time in having a go flying.

Most of the group seemed to be naturals at using the remote controls and (minus a couple escaping over the school fence) got a good feel for how to navigate the drones remarkably quickly. Each group explored different ways of using the drone as a camera – from very smooth, wide shots to running along holding them in their hands. All the girls seemed to really enjoy using them.

After some quick editing on iMovie and having a play with some sound effects & music, the three films were screened to the room (and the judge). Because each group had taken such a different approach with their film, the judge decided to give one award to each film and so all the girls were able to enjoy the grand prize – a box of chocolates!

Results & learning:

The success of the workshop in such a short period of time relied on the staff members each working with small groups of students to teach them how to fly and to assist in the video editing. If you are considering running this session with a smaller staff team, we would recommend giving yourself more time to allow the students to develop more independent skills in flight and video editing. We suggest two, two hour sessions, one on flight and one on editing, over one day would be ideal.

You can view the Session Plan if you would like to run your own drone art session. This session is aimed at upper end of key stage 3 pupils to key stage 4.

Venture Arts Session:

As part of our research we ran a session with Venture Arts, a Manchester based group that runs arts workshops for adults with learning difficulties. We ran a two hour session structured to give the participants a wide range of practical activities, with the aim of establishing how people from groups that may not be able to access drones imagine their use within society. The session featured examples of drone art, an activity focused on making negatives from drone images and a discussion exploring their experience of drone art. Many participants had the chance to fly Hubsan nano drones and a Parrot Bebop drone, as well as using Google Cardboard to experience virtual reality.

Most enjoyed how fast the Hubsan quadcopters could gain altitude and make turns, but thought that they would enjoy it more with further practice and nimbler controls. Without guidance and support, many of the flyers found it difficult to maintain altitude and direction between the greenery and obstacles in the garden centre, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Drone filming was a big hit with people in the sandpit event, many of whom had never seen footage from onboard a drone. There were many favourites amongst the group, but the drone racing video was particularly popular because of its fast pace, intensity and first person view. The footage taken from the flying session stirred the imagination of much of the group. Some of them described it as “being there flying”, and given the opportunity, would love to make their own racing, news and swarm formation drone films. When asked how the videos were different to films that don’t use drones, the participants said that they enjoyed the drone films more and valued the opportunity to ‘look all around’ using its camera.

The Venture Arts sandpit event captured the imagination of the group and garnered much insight into their imagined uses for drones and VR in society. Many participants were excited by the prospect of first person view technology from a drone’s perspective, as well as the use of VR to create modern, colourful and exciting funfair rides accessible at home through the headset. The practical activities during the sandpit were empowering for the adults with learning difficulties as it allowed them to express their imagination and views through creativity and hands on participation. The highly interactive drone flying session was successful as it gave them the chance to take control of their own drone, as well as getting a new perspective viewing the footage of themselves from the onboard camera. Using the drones gave the Venture Arts members a new sense of individuality, mobility and freedom by offering them access to new perspectives and an alternative reality through technology.

Next page in toolkit: Drone Artist Community