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STEM – What it is, the opportunities, application to drones

Opportunities from the study of STEM disciplines in the field of drones

by Fabio Affortunato
Reading time / Tempo lettura : 4 minutes / minuti

STEM – Cos’è

STEM is the English acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and indicates the scientific-technological disciplines and related courses of study.

These technical-scientific disciplines have represented and represent the disciplines necessary for the innovation and economic growth of a country. In fact, analyzes carried out at an international level starting from the 2000s have highlighted the poor preparation of the students, or rather of the workforce, in the technical-scientific fields. Hence the birth of STEM education as an interdisciplinary approach, in which students are encouraged to create links (link), between the notions learned from the study of technical-scientific disciplines and the real world.

STEM Education is therefore a training reality, so much so that in Italy STEM teachers are highly sought after and for the school year 2021/22 there are 6129 places available for STEM teachers and others will be foreseen in the following years.

STEM and drones

If the basic principle of STEM is to spread, it is to develop knowledge of science and technologies through training courses characterized by practical implications. nothing better than a drone can do this. The drone, which is in fact the practical result of principles and technological solutions based on mechanics, physics, electronics, information technology, robotics, is therefore a perfect tool for STEM education.

The fundamentals of STEM education with drones are translated into concrete projects capable of developing knowledge and skills. STEM, drones, knowledge and skills are therefore part of a binomial equation:

STEM + Drones = Knowledge + Skills

This equation is of fundamental importance for the development of skills and professionalism for the future related to technology.

Drones for STEM – Models and tools

STEM education with drones is therefore a reality destined to evolve. Although the commitment at the forefront of some drone manufacturers is still in the initial stages, companies specializing in STEM training and dissemination can make a difference.

The current STEM solutions offered by drone manufacturers can be defined as centric drones, as they are based on the drone as a basic element on which to build mainly App, whose purpose is to control the drone. The solutions offered by companies specializing in STEM training, on the other hand, are based on the use and development of the concepts and principles of the STEM disciplines, for the implementation of projects in which the drone performs certain activities.

Drone manufacturers with drone proposals for STEM education are essentially two:


A third company BonaDrone (much more interesting than the first two) is no longer operational.


DJI currently offers a training drone, the Tello drone made in partnership with Ryze Tech and Intel), as a STEM drone.

Drone DJI TelloTrello Drone – Source DJI website

The Trello drone is programmable via Scratch, and is a tool for learning and developing code (coding) with which to control the drone.

Ambiente sviluppo codice con App Scratch

Code development environment with App Scratch – Screenshot example – Source Scratch web site

DJI has also made the related SDK (Software Development Kit) available to Tello, to allow the development of code and applications for scientific purposes.


The STEM philosophy adopted by Parrot is based on the Parrot Education program, which is the gateway to App for coding, and Bundles for the implementation of STEM projects, focused on its drones.

The Apps section, in fact, introduces the coding environments suitable for developing code to fly the drone. These include: Swift Playground (by Apple), Tynker, WorkbenchSimulinkPython, and Javascript. In addition, Parrot also provides access to its SDK platform for scientific projects.

Ambiente sviluppo codice per drone Parrot con App Tynker

Code development environment for Parrot drone with App Tynker – Screenshot example – Source Parrot

The Bundles section, on the other hand, gives access to an area for the discounted purchase of drones on which to implement the code developed with the previous Apps and implement STEM education projects with drones in practice. The Parrot SDK data sheet is available at the follow link.

STEM – DroneBlocks tool

If drone manufacturers are not currently investing in the STEM-drones combination, not considering that this could be a millionaire business, there are tools that allow the development of STEM apps for programmable drones. DroneBlock is a good example of this.

DroneBlock is presented as a STEM App (for iOS and Android), drag and drop type for the development of code for drones. The block code that can be generated on the tablet or via the browser is able to manage different types of DJI drones such as: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Mavic Pro, Mavic Air, Spark, and Tello.

Based on the DJI SDK, the App allows you to develop missions with the drone where different physical parameters and principles (physics, mechanics) must be properly considered, to create a quality STEM App.

Ambiente sviluppo codice per drone DJI con App DroneBlocks

Code development environment for DJI drone with DroneBlocks App – Example – Source DroneBlocks

The learning, also guided through the DroneBlocks Curriculum sections, educates the student in a reasoned use of the drone even through sophisticated tools such as GPS.

Ultimately DroneBlocks is a STEM education environment with drones that allows you to develop more or less complex level projects on consumer drones.

The information sheets on the DroneBlocks App are available in the Blog.

STEM and robots

Drones can be considered to all intents and purposes as part of the large family of robots, also in relation to the fact that some drone models definitely point to artificial intelligence (see Parrot Anafi AI). So in the STEM field it is also worth mentioning both the programmable robot produced by DJI “RoboMaster S1“, and the programmable robot balls of Sphero, a leader in this sector.

Sphero, through its products, Sphero Bolt or the brand new Rvr-rover (available on Kickstarter), is in fact able to offer innovative and stimulating solutions suitable for a vast STEM audience.

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Credits: The featured image is taken from pixabay.com, free for commercial use and without attribution request. The author is chenspec. The use of the images is exclusively for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 14/10/2021

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