Drones (or Quadcopters) provide the perfect vehicle for students to capture video from perspectives they may not otherwise be able to reach. Operating a drone can be a challenge for anyone and this is exacerbated for students with a physical and/or cognitive disability. Fine motor control is required along with a high degree of hand-eye coordination. For many individuals with physical disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy operating a drone with the supplied controller is not an option. For other students with cognitive impairments the reward of interacting with a drone may be great, but the method of control is too complex.
Currently using drones in Special or Additional Education is rare. As far as we are aware the only other UK college working toward this is National Star College in Cheltenham. Some projects are taking place in the USA to encourage the use of drones in education such as First Person Aerial http://www.firstpersonaerial.com/, however these tend to be targeted at mainstream, STEM engagement.
The Assistive Technology team at Beaumont College have been collaborating with developers from Lancaster University to create a system which will enable students to control the drone via a touchscreen or access switches. The drone in use was specifically chosen as the control software is open-source. This has enabled development of a tablet based control system which isolates the drone’s movements. Users are now able to activate a single movement without the chance of activating another.
This session will show the outcomes of implementing this technology for operation by individuals with complex support needs, whilst highlighting the challenges. It will demonstrate how the drone can now be accessed by students with a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments. Future plans for development will also be discussed.