Drone safety guidelines for teachers

Drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), have become increasingly popular tools for educators. Their ability to capture unique perspectives and engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields makes them a valuable addition to the classroom.

However, safety remains paramount when using drones in a school setting. This article outlines the key guidelines and best practices established by your school district (policy 4500) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure safe and responsible drone operation.

Prior Approval and Educational Objectives

Before incorporating drones into your curriculum, you must obtain written approval using form 4500F-1. This form requires outlining specific educational objectives for drone usage. Authorized drone use can be used in various subjects, including science, computer science, technology, aviation, film production, photography, and programming.

Safety First: Essential Rules for Teachers and Students

A core principle for drone use in the classroom is prioritizing safety for everyone involved. To achieve this, both teachers and students must adhere to the following rules:

  • Responsible Conduct: Students must maintain responsible behavior throughout the learning process in the classroom and during drone building/flying activities.
  • Following Instructions: Careful attention to all written and verbal instructions is crucial. Students should ask their instructor for clarification before proceeding if something is unclear.
  • Never Fly Alone: Student drone operation or work is strictly prohibited without a qualified instructor/advisor present.
  • Eye Protection: Safety goggles are mandatory when working with or flying drones indoors.
  • Mind Your Attire: Long hair must be tied back, and loose clothing or dangling jewelry should be secured to prevent entanglement with propellers.
  • Propeller Safety: Utilize propeller guards for added safety during operation.
  • Public Space Usage: When flying in public areas, staff must post clear notices and markers indicating the designated flight zone, including entry points and doorways.
  • Indoor Flight Restrictions: Only drones specifically designed for indoor use should be flown within the school building.
  • Limited Drone Occupancy: Restrict the flight area to two drones simultaneously.
  • Reporting Damage or Injury: Any property damage or injury resulting from drone use must be immediately reported to the supervising instructor or an administrator.

Taking it Outside: FAA Best Practices

For outdoor drone operations, the FAA offers additional best practices to be followed:

  • Drone Registration: The instructor/advisor responsible for the drone program must register the drone(s) with the FAA. Registration details should be displayed on the drone itself. (https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/register_drone)
  • Adult Supervision: Student drone flight requires the presence of an approved instructor or advisor at all times.
  • Maintaining Safe Distances: Drones must be flown below 400 feet and kept at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
  • Visual Line of Sight: Maintaining a visual line of sight with the drone is crucial. Additionally, having another person act as a spotter is highly recommended.
  • Airspace Restrictions: Be aware of FAA Airspace Restrictions, including temporary flight restrictions and special security instructions. (https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/uas_facility_maps)
  • Respecting Privacy: Flying drones over private property or areas where privacy expectations exist is strictly prohibited.
  • Avoiding Crowds: Drones must not be flown near large gatherings, public events, or stadiums packed with people.
  • Emergency Response Areas: Flying drones near emergency response efforts, such as fires or accidents, is strictly prohibited.
  • Adverse Weather Conditions: Drone operation is prohibited during adverse weather conditions like high winds or reduced visibility.
  • Aircraft and Airport Proximity: Drones must not be flown near other aircraft or within 5 miles of an airport without prior communication with air traffic control and airport authorities. Instructors/advisors are required to notify Harvey Field at least 24 hours before scheduled drone flights outside the school premises. (http://harveyfield.com/)


By following these guidelines and best practices, teachers can harness the educational potential of drones while ensuring a safe and responsible learning environment for their students. Remember to keep these key takeaways in mind:

  • Prioritize Safety: Always prioritize the safety of students, teachers, and everyone around when using drones.
  • Obtain Approval: Secure written approval using form 4500F-1 before incorporating drones into your curriculum.
  • Educate Students: Communicate and enforce safety rules with your students.
    Follow FAA Regulations: Adhere to FAA best practices when flying drones outdoors.

By combining a well-structured curriculum with a commitment to safety, drone education can become a truly enriching and rewarding experience for teachers and students.