With the cost of drones decreasing and their popularity soaring, this is good news for high schools and possible research projects and programs for teachers and students! Consider some options that exist now that did not just a couple years ago, and which will likely grab student attention and interest for possible science research projects:
- Use of drones to study local areas of interest. Could include population studies of different types of animals, land coverage of different local plant species. Interesting studies could include doing this before and after a nearby construction project, and how that affects adjacent ecosystems. This could evolve into longer-term class/program studies, where students do the same counts year after year to measure any changes that occur. Drones have come down drastically in price, and could lead to all sorts of creative, novel studies like the ones mentioned! Be creative, think local - chances are a study you have in mind has not been done before, especially in rural settings. Check with your local town hall for records of what has and has not been done, do something original!
- Drones can be used to study water flow patterns of local or regional areas, particularly for crops, nurseries, protected areas and nature reserves, and other areas of interest that require any controlled or regulated water flow for irrigation and/or drainage. Much research has been done on optimal irrigation patterns, for instance. But, if your local region has different landscapes, soil, plant species or crops, weather patterns, rotation of crops that require different water yields, or anything else that is different from previous studies, then you have a novel problem to research! Irrigation and water flow is an ongoing, never-ending process that is important to farming communities in particular, and something like this could develop into a natural long-term research project for teachers and their classes from year to year, where entire databases and studies are done. For any long-term studies, changes in patterns due to erosion, storms, snow and ice deformations to the landscape, and other geological features could also be relevant. Schools might contact state universities or water agencies to get ideas or become partners in studies.
- Included in the drone studies could be ongoing chemical analyses of soil and/or any water sources within the defined ecosystem. Could also include biological studies of soil and water sources, for example doing counts of different insects and organisms within the sample. Do these measurements change over time? If so, what is driving the changes? Teachers could develop a robust, long-term research program around this type of work.