UAV delivering a payload, showing skyhook with basket. Click to enlarge.
Students use a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or "drone") to conduct a simulated disaster relief mission. The baseline mission involves delivery of buckets (representing water) to a landing zone next to a damaged town. Optional extensions incorporate delivery of food or medical supplies to the disaster zone.
One variant of this activity includes a race between teams of students to deliver the most buckets of (simulated) water in a 2-minute span.
Two other activities, UAV Challenge: Aerial Survey of a Disaster Area and Planning a Disaster Relief Mission: Storyboarding, are recommended prerequisites for this activity. This activity can, however, be done without those two prerequisites; you will need to alter some of the discussion sections of this activity and omit some of the “story line” if you choose to do this activity as a standalone.
Unless your students already have substantial UAV flying skills, we strongly recommend that students complete the Learn to Fly! UAV Flight School, Learn to Fly! UAV First Flight and Learn to Fly! Aerial Maneuvers with a UAV activities before attempting this payload delivery activity.
Two other activities in our UAV series, UAV Performance Test: Carry a Payload and UAV Challenge: Retrieve a Payload, include elements similar to this payload delivery activity. You might want your students to try one or both of those activities before this one.
These activities were developed by John Ristvey, Randy Russell, and Teri Eastburn of the UCAR Center for Science Education.
This activity is best suited for students in middle or high school and can be adapted for upper elementary students.
Students utilize problem-solving techniques and the engineering design process to implement an engineering solution to a specified problem.
Activity Learning Objectives
Students learn how to design, build, test, and improve an engineering system “skyhook” to deliver objects to a UAV landing zone adjacent to a mock disaster-site.
Problem-based learning classroom activity. Students work in groups to implement a solution to an open-ended problem.
Education Standards Addressed
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas
- 3-5-ETS1 Engineering Design
- MS-ETS1 Engineering Design
- HS-ETS1 Engineering Design
Science and Engineering Practices
Asking Questions and Defining Problems: Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria* and constraints, including scientific knowledge** that may limit possible solutions. (MS-ETS1-1)
* criteria – deliver a payload to a target; time required to deliver a payload
** scientific knowledge - understanding of how mass affects the motion and maneuverability of the UAV; understanding of the pros and cons of different location to place the "skyhook" on the UAV