When you’re thinking of the role of drones, education rarely comes to mind. Education of young pupils is surely even further down in your mind. Slowly but surely, this is changing. Including more drones in education isn’t something unheard of today as a plethora of organizations and companies are working to improve this as we speak.
One of them is Drone Legends – a recent Airwards winner – who made the drone industry headlines thanks to developing a practical, detail-oriented curriculum for introducing drones in education of young students. This was more than enough to convince us to reach out to Scott Buell – the founder and CEO of the organization and talk to him. He explained everything about his vision of creating a generation of empowered youths, who are familiar with the pluses of using drone technology and want to use it in their daily life.
Meet the “Drone Legend” Himself
Source: Drone Legends
Scott is the founder of the company Dynamic Learning Experiences – a new company and the name of the brand is Drone Legends. So, he is the founder of Drone Legends since January 2020 right before the pandemic.
As for his full-time job, Scott is a Part 107 operator and that’s how he got into drones. Also, he has a diverse background. He started his way into art school before he ended up majoring in business. The visual aspect of it drew him in and he got hooked on editing. He tells us, “I liked trying to fly that drone so smoothly and even though the gimbal kept it nice and smooth, I wanted to catch great angles.”
“I’ve been flying drones for probably eight years now. It started as a hobby. I just picked up a drone, saw a bunch of kids out here in my neighborhood flying drones and I saw one kid flying a drone and I thought that looks like fun. Once I grabbed the toy and played around with it here in the house, I got hooked. I still have it – it was a Syma. It’s a nice little toy and I felt like it was a real quad drone that I could fly outside,” he says.
After trying multiple drones, he stepped right up into his first DJI drone – the Phantom 2 Vision Plus. He told us he still has it sitting in a closet somewhere.
“Drones were my hobby. I was just the guy in my neighborhood that flew drones around. I was always at my son’s sporting events with the drone,” he adds with a chuckle.
Now he’s got a Mavic, yet his brand takes up most of his time, so he doesn’t fly his drone that often anymore.
“Now and then, somebody will ask me to come film something for them, though. I took some shots of a neighborhood cleanup in Camden, New Jersey, and a friend of mine that has a videography company asked me to do some aerials for him. Also, I recently took my drone on a family vacation and was flying around the beach and over the beaches,” he explains.
Moreover, he has a Mavic Mini, too, which he almost uses more than his Mavic 2 Pro because of its easiness, flexibility, and great performance.
TDW: You quit your corporate job, so how did it feel to start your own business and how did the idea for Drone Legends come to be?
S.B.: I think about this all the time. When I was in my early 50s, there was something to be said for having a plan in life and I never had a thing. When I was 22, I never thought of where I would be when I was 52. I only lived in the moment and focused on what I can control, which is the here and now.
However, I didn’t have any plans or thoughts about what it was that I wanted. I lived too much in the moment and I think more so that I was a reactor to life. I reacted to life, I took opportunities as they came and I didn’t have a plan. Being in sales my whole life, working in pharmaceutical marketing, I worked for agencies and I did fairly well financially but as I got older, I started to find myself not very happy with where I ended up.
Having and owning a lot of stuff almost became my prison. A lot of expensive stuff to show people that I made it. My last job lasted five weeks and I said I can’t do this anymore. I gave them my laptop and my cell phone and I said I’m out. I swore to myself that I would never do something that I didn’t feel was what I was put here on this planet to do and that I would never try so hard for another paycheck again and put up with the garbage that I put up with.
And it dawned on me that I don’t want any children to fall into that same trap. So, why Drone Legends? Because it’s easy for us as we get older to forget our dreams, how to take risks, and play it safe.
But why drones? What does this have anything to do with drones? When I would fly my drone, I would turn around and like most pilots, I’m sure there’d be kids behind me dying to get a chance to look at the drone or look at the camera or fly it themselves. I had all these kids around me and I call that the magic of drones. That’s the expression I’ve been using for years now. The magic of drones, especially drones in education, is their ability to attract children and capture their attention like nothing I’ve ever seen. So, I thought we should do something here and I was looking for a purpose in my life. I wanted to make my life mean something.
When I talk to students today, and I do that a lot, I give them two numbers – 400 trillion and 0.5 and I go, ‘What do those numbers mean?’ The first is the likelihood that you exist, the odds that you are you as you. In fact, they’re greater than that but we can’t even fathom the absolute miracle that you and I are having this conversation. As the individuals we are today, there will only ever be one of you and there will only ever be one of me and we get what is 0.5. That’s how long you have on this planet. You get this one little sliver of time to do your thing and so I swore that I would create a program using the allure of drones because that’s what I did; I liked drones.
There’s a reason we’re not called drone bots. It’s because inside every one of us lives this unique potential. We’re future legends – so you’ve got an opportunity if you just stop worrying about it and stop fearing things to encourage leadership, curiosity, and integrity. These are the kind of things you should live your life for and that’s what we embed in the Drone Legends programming.
TDW: That’s amazingly put! Can you give us a sneak peek at what the curriculum is offering?
S.B.: We’re teaching kids how to embrace their inner legends, take risks, fail, try, and fail again because you will think of yourself as being something bigger than anything that you can imagine. Go for it. You get one shot, so what’s the worst that can happen?
We equip the students with real-world skills. I want students to think they shouldn’t just go get a sales gig because they think they can make lots of money off that.
For instance, in the curriculum, the students discover how drones can be used for delivering medicines to people in need. I want them to look at the examples and say, ‘Hey, I think I could be in this drone business.’ There are all of these great opportunities and with including more drones in education, you can get non-STEM kids engaged, too.
We’re equipping students with 21st-century skills and character development, mindset, and grit because they’re learning through failure and iteration. Therefore, not only are they equipped academically, but they’re equipped socially and emotionally to go out and carve their path through life. That’s the legend and we’re with them. We want kids to think that there’s something better and that there’s something big for them.
TDW: Can you explain in more detail how Drone Legends operates? What do kids learn and how drones are a part of that?
S.B.: First, I was thinking, how do you bring this program to kids everywhere? Teachers around the world want to do this. We see it all the time. They hear about drones in the classroom, but they don’t always have the means to teach about them. So, I knew early on that we needed to create a system that could empower teachers around the world to deliver the best, most user-friendly, and inclusive drone STEM program.
I knew we had to create that. Instead of hiring drone people to try to create a classroom curriculum, I went out and found who I think are the most creative people. When I was looking for people to join my team, one of the requisites was that you had to have hyper creativity. Also, you had to be fun and easy-going. We brought in some instructional designers, too. These are the people that understand how to put content together. That team created what you see today which is calledSTEM Fundamentals.
TDW: What are the core resources for educating students about drone technology?
S.B.: For one, the STEM Fundamentals is a system where everything that you need comes in a kit including your drones. The book features missions in which you need drones to solve them. When we started, we planned to base it on real-world drone scenarios. Furthermore, flight training is encompassed in our guide and we have our artificially intelligent drone as a mascot. We work in teams and we’ve created a system that any teacher can use right now for flight training.
For instance, we’re going to Puerto Rico. There’s been a hurricane so now we’re going to learn to fly around the perimeter of a wrecked building. That’s how we learn to fly. From there we’re going to go to fighting fires and we’re going to learn how to use our drones to combat wildfires by dropping these things called dragon eggs. Everything is scenario-based and then they’ve got a problem to solve. So, there is engineering and real-deal STEM besides just drones in education.
The student mission guide is the heart of our program. So, when a student comes up in the classroom and says, ‘I don’t remember how to change the propellers on my drone, the propeller fell off or something,’ the teacher can direct them to the manual which is a shared resource for all students. We take safety very seriously even though we are only flying DJI Tellos.
We focus on entertainment education, making learning fun, problem-solving, character education, drone technology, and real-world applications but we don’t get involved in flying drones for sub-seventh graders.
Having in mind this, to empower teachers around the world, we have to give teachers the tools and resources. We can’t be everywhere but we can help teachers by offering unlimited professional development and support. Drone Legends is present in over 100 schools here in the U.S., operations running in New Zealand and Australia, and I never want a kid to go home and say Drone Legends was not fun.
TDW: Drone education is an excellent opportunity for creating a community of drone educators, students, and parents. What does the role of the community look like?
S.B.: We built a community and we nurture it through the community application – our educator portal. When you come in you’ve got an activity feed and you can belong to numerous groups. We’re still building our membership but we’ve already got teachers sharing what they’re doing and all cool, fun stuff.
The educator portal is a growing body of Drone Legends’ content. It consists of missions and for every one of those missions there is a module and the teachers can work with it and share. Also, we do real-world video applications.
We want to create a community of teachers, who are learning about using drones in education. Through this, we’re letting teachers share their information with other teachers in our community. This way, we learn as a company what the students and teachers prefer, and how the teachers are using the program, and we can start to create new better content over time.
Source: Drone Legends
The Role of Drones in Education
TDW: Congratulations on winning an award at the Airwards! What did it feel like? What are your achievements so far that have led to this?
S.B.: I am excited about the numbers. We’re expanding and we believe that we’ll triple that expansion over the next 12 months. We think that we’ve got something pretty unique, so we’re very proud; I’m very proud of my team for what they’ve been able to achieve. We’ve got new content in the works and new programs. Some big announcements are coming in 2023.
I think the kids and the faculty are going to love it. We’ve got some partnerships forming that I think will be really fun.
Our work with Drone Blocks continues, as well. The guys at Drone Blocks are innovating all the time and we’re right there with them. We help them develop new content and collaborate on joint content.
So, for Airwards to recognize that – it’s amazing.
TDW: What people should know when they’re approaching drones for the first time?
S.B.: I choose to focus on the good that the technology can do. This includes saving lives, helping with research and endangered animals, and similar. My thought as a drone operator is to just be respectful and mindful. You’re representing this community and when you fly out there, you should follow the rules, follow the laws. They’re there for a reason and people don’t make them up just to make your life difficult. They invented them to protect people, for your safety.
Don’t be the example – set the example. What I mean by that is those that don’t respect and know the rules aren’t real drone pilots. They’re recreational users with zero clue of what they’re doing. So, as a drone pilot, evangelize the rules and embrace them. Talk about them and talk about their importance in your community. Maybe run workshops in your community for commercial users, hobbyists, or people that are new because it just benefits everybody. The last thing we want is more regulations that do restrict us, as responsible drone operators, to the point where we may not be able to fly anymore.
AUVSI predicts more than a hundred thousand new jobs will exist in the unmanned aircraft industry by 2025. To prepare for the high demand, we might as well start educating youth about using drones for good now.
Before we said our goodbyes, Scott shared one last piece of advice. He told us, “If you’re a drone pilot, think about how you use drones, and how to bring one into the classroom. You can work with children and teach them how to pilot a drone – it’s fun. I focus on these kids and truly I would like to say to everyone out there – don’t let life happen to you. Go out and happen to life, be in control of your life. Use this time wisely as it’s your most valuable asset. Don’t be afraid to try new stuff!”
We are extremely happy to collaborate with impactful organizations like Drone Legends. At The Drones World, we wholeheartedly thank Scott for the time he spent with us and his insightful answers. Check out more of our interviews with drone pilots and entrepreneurs from all over the world.
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