COVID-19 Response

School Librarian Delivers Books by Drone for Summer Reading

School Librarian Delivers Books by Drone for Summer Reading

A librarian at Montgomery County Public Schools has introduced book delivery services via drone, to keep kids reading during the summer. Librarian Kelly Passek, a Blacksburg Middle School librarian, pitched district leaders on the idea as a response to school closures related to COVID-19.

As she told reporters, she considers "free choice reading," the reading students do for themselves, "so important to the success of our students, both academically and in life in general. If we can get library resources into their hands, we can help them stay on a path to success."

The idea grew out of Passek's own use of a drone delivery services in Christianburg, VA, her community. In 2019 a company called Wing Aviation received Federal Aviation Administration permission to make air deliveries to homes in the Christianburg area. Wing, a company within Alphabet (the firm behind Google), struck deals with local businesses to deliver health products, food and beverages. Passek, an early fan of the service, eventually pitched the book delivery idea to Wing, which responded that they were "on board."

The company had already reached out to the school system, hosting field trips for high school and middle school students and making donations to the high schools, to enable them to purchase drone equipment and curriculum.

Wing drones are about 10 pounds and can carry up to three pounds of goods. Students order the books via a Google Form, then Passek places them into a cardboard container with a handle and delivers those containers to Wing's delivery facility. From there, the packages are hooked onto the drone via a tether or cord. The drone climbs to a height of about 150 feet, flies to the destination, slows, hovers and drops to an altitude of about 23 feet at the delivery address. The drone lowers the tether and automatically releases the package into the yard (either front or back), reels in the tether, climbs back to "cruise height" and returns to the Wing site.

School Librarian Delivers Books by Drone for Summer Reading

Students have been told to hang onto their books until the new school year begins and they can return them in person.

"We pride ourselves on finding innovative ways to serve our students," said district Superintendent Mark Miear, in a statement. "We are excited to continue our streak of innovation through this pilot program that brings library books to our students via drone delivery."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.