SkillsBuild STEM Labs Part 1

Tello Drone


This lab will introduce students to drones, specifically the Tello drone. Tello is a small quadcopter that features a Vision Po-sitioning System and an onboard camera. Using its Vision Positio-ning System and advanced flight controller, it can hover in place and is suitable for flying indoors. Advanced features like Bounce mode, 8D Flips, and EZ Shots make using Tello fun. Tello captu-res 5 megapixel photos and streams 720p live video to the Tello app on a mobile device. Its maximum flight time is approximately 13 minutes*, and its maximum flight distance is 328 ft (100 m). Students will be introduced to Drone safety, careers with drones, programming and coding, and Python for Data Science.


Course/SkillsBuild for Student Module: IBM SkillsBuild MakerLab: Drones


Topics: Coding, Drone Operation, Career Opportunities


Length of class: 5 parts (est 5 hours) with option of additional extension activities


Outcomes: What learners will be able to know, do, or value by the end of the lesson.


  • Students will be able to identify legal and safety measures for drone operation
  • Students will be able to apply flight controls to successfully operate the drone
  • Students will be able to program the drone
  • Students will be able to identify careers that use drones or that use skills applied through drone operation


Workplace learning skills:


  • Collaboration
  • Analytical thinking



Required Learning Materials/Resources

  • SkillsBuild for Students Learning Modules
  • DJI Tello Boost Combo (drone kit)
  • Laptop for connecting to drone for Droneblocks programming tool and for battery charging
  • USB adapter rated at 5v and 1.5 Amp or above for charging (optional)
  • Mobile devices for Tello app access (if not using programming tool)
  • Apple and Google Play
  • Tello Manual
  • Droneblocks license for drone learning
  • *IMPORTANT*: Drone Setup and Droneblocks Installation

Learning Environment Needs

Adequate space for flying the drones is required. This space could include inside the school gym or outdoor spaces such as a basketball court or school field. Sufficient clear overhead space is required for flying the drones. Refer to the Tello Manual for additional requirements. Internet access is also required.


Instructors should review and become familiar with these materials prior to teaching:


Part 1: Intro to Drones (25 mins)

Check for prior knowledge. Have students complete the KWHLAQ worksheet. Ask questions like “What is a drone, how do we use them, has anyone ever flown a drone, how do drones work?”


Intro: Give an overview and introduction to drones with this Drones PPT


Check for knowledge after PPT. Have students use the KWHLAQ worksheet. Ask some questions from the PPT such as “When was the first drone seen?”, “How have drones changed and evolved?”, “How are drones used?”

Part 2: Drone Safety (30 mins)

Follow the DroneBlock Drone Safety Lesson Plan to go over the rules and safety guidelines with students. Instructors can demonstrate with one drone for the whole class before students are given drones to use. Check for knowledge during and afterwards with questions like “What is the max windspeed for flying?”, “What is the max height a drone can fly at? Why?”, “How many feet away should you stay from the drone?”


Additional safety information can be found in the Tello Manual, as well as on the Ryze Robotics video page

Part 3: Getting Started with the Drone (60 mins)

Divide drones among students. Have students follow instructions to get started in the Tello Manual. Students will also need to download the Tello App. (30 mins)


Students can become familiar with different parts of the drone with this labeling activity.


Following the instructions in the Tello Manual and Tello videos, the instructor can guide students to experiment with programming and flying the drones (Time is flexible and the instructor can determine to shorten or lengthen this part of the lesson.) Have students use the KWHLAQ worksheet.

Part 4: Optional Extension

Dancing Drones (time varies depending on lessons chosen)


Introduce the concept of coding through the SkillsBuild for Students activity Code Your Own Dance Party. Students will learn how to code a dance party using different programing tools. (25 mins)


Show students the video Biggest drone display ever: Guiness World Records (2 mins). Now that students have some basic knowledge on coding, they can learn more about programming drones through synchronization, choreography, and a culminating drone recital. Before starting, ask check for any “muddy” points.


Lesson plans for these activities can be found on DroneBlocks. Instructors can complete as many lessons as time allows for and can span over a few days or even a unit.

Part 5: Careers in Drones (60 mins)

Check for prior knowledge. Ask students questions like “What kinds of careers could use drones?”, “What kind of industry could benefit from using drones?”, “What job might be easier with the use of a drone?”


Play the video: Inspiring #STEM Careers: Get your drone on (5:37)


Next have students read 5 Careers Related to Drone Piloting and this IBM blog post. Have students individually or in groups pick a career related to drones to research. Students will need access to a computer to search for info on their career. Ask them to complete this Career Research Graphic Organizer. If time allows, students can present their findings to the class.

Additional Extension Activities

Use any of the lesson plans available on DroneBlocks to further explore drones with students.


Python for Data Science SkillsBuild for Students Course (3 hours, can be divided into parts) is a beginner-friendly Python course that will take students from zero to programming in hours. Students will be able to write their own Python scripts and perform basic hands-on data analysis.


UAV Drones Inquiry Unit– The REACH UAV (Drones) Inquiry Unit is a full lesson plan that provides you with all the materials you will need to implement it in the classroom, including teacher background, primary sources, videos, and a hands-on activity.

Additional Resources/ Deeper Learning


Based on application, how I will I know learners have met intended outcome?


  • KWHLAQ worksheet
  • Drone identification worksheet
  • Teacher may wish to create rubric to use to score career presentations worksheet and optional drone recital
  • Python for Data Science course final exam


How will I bring lesson to an effective closing?


  • Check for understanding and answer any subsequent questions
  • Emphasize key information
  • Ask the question “What information did you learn that you think you will find important 3 years from now?”
  • Remind students that there are more relevant courses on SkillsBuild for Students to continue their learning


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