Drone Flyer Diary — Roberto Lujan Rocha

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Roberto and dad preparing a drone show, precision is a must (Credit: Gregory Bloem).

In the dynamic landscape of modern education, the call for STEM experiences is louder than ever before. Meet Roberto Lujan Rocha: an environmental scientist by trade, and a passionate drone enthusiast by heart. After recognising an opportunity to enhance curriculum, Roberto pioneered inventive teaching methods to get kids interested in drones. For young Australian minds he not only demystifies the skies but also makes safe drone flying an exhilarating activity for all ages.

Squadrone, Roberto’s Perth-based business, harnesses the untapped market of educational drone programming for kids and adults.

‘We specialise in interactive classes, within schools and privately, as well as performing drone light shows for events. The business provides opportunities for children and people outside the STEM realm, especially those from disadvantaged communities or backgrounds, to unearth talents they may not have otherwise discovered,’ says Roberto.
Roberto starts by teaching the kids to code the drones on a virtual simulator using tablets, phones, or computers.

‘Once they are comfortable with the virtual drones, we transition to the real thing. The participants are suited up in personal protection equipment (PPE) and take turns being pilot and overseer.’

City of Melville workshop during science week (Credit: Squadrone team)

‘When teaching, I prefer indoor settings to help the kids maintain line of sight and avoid wind disruption’ Roberto explains. ‘However, on occasion, we venture outside and use a CASA-verified drone safety app to safely facilitate outdoor flights.’

CASA-verified drone safety apps are free and show operators where they can safely fly according to the airspace restrictions in their area.

Roberto chooses small sized drones that are easy to use and have important safety features like propeller guards and an emergency land button.

Roberto’s venture into the world of drones was sparked by their use in his professional research for photography, data collection, and monitoring. With a solid foundation in coding for statistics, he quickly recognised the potential for applying these skills to drones. This ignited his passion, leading him to obtain his remote pilot licence (RePL) to explore the possibilities of flying and coding drones.On top of his RePL, Roberto also holds a remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) and has authorisation to fly multiple drones, enriching the learning experiences for his students.

Roberto presenting a drone show at a library in the City of Melville (Credit: Yoshi Muroi).

One of his most memorable experiences was a workshop commissioned by the City of Melville for socially disadvantaged kids.

‘Seeing their progress and newfound confidence was incredibly rewarding’ says Roberto. ‘Especially from the point where they started flying, their personalities and smiles came out,’ Roberto reflects.

‘Seeing them realise their potential reaffirmed my commitment to empowering children through drone education.’

CASA’s Know Your Drone classroom resources have been a wealth of information for both Roberto and the people he teaches. ‘The animated safety videos, quizzes, and Plain English Guides have been invaluable’ says Roberto.

In fact, the best piece of advice he would give to any of his students wanting to get started is to make use of these free resources. He has also taken advantage of the CASA online store for student certificates and other merchandise.

Roberto’s biggest safety tip is to learn all the rules before you fly. ‘Just make sure you go through the Know Your Drone website and learn them before you get on the drone… Some people may think, ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered reading’ but there are also videos and it’s very important.’

Roberto shares Squadrone’s vision at the University of Western Australia (Credit: Venture UWA).

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