WWII: Up in the Air


Computers with Internet connection and research resources, materials for creating digital or paper timelines, Aviation History Timeline Planner, and projector

Related Episode

Spotlight on two rare pieces of World War II military history: found metal parts of an airplane from the Pearl Harbor attack and a wooden carving from a navy drone plane. 



Should drone technology be permitted in warfare?



Estimated time required

1-2 class periods






Students view an excerpt from Drone Propeller, which is about fighter planes used during World War II. They then debate whether this type of remote control technology should be used for warfare.


Related Reproducible

Students use this reproducible to record pro and con arguments surrounding the use of drone technology in military warfare.


Before Viewing

Show students a series of images that introduce the concept of drone technnology:

Infographic: New Frontline on the War of Terror

GOOD magazine infographic on the Attack of the Drones in the War on Terror in Pakistan


TED talk by JW Singer Military Robots and the Future of War. This video which shows a series of images of how robots are used in war right now between minutes 3:12 and 4:50.

Share the following definition of drones with students (taken from the Congressional Quarterly publication listed below):

“Drones are pilotless plans that are pre-programmed to fly a set course and mission. Predators, Reapers and some other types of unmanned craft on the other hand, are controlled remotely during flights by operators on the ground, typically at bases located in the United States. However the term “drones” is widely, if loosely, used to describe both types of unmanned craft.”

Ask students to do a brainstorming session of feedback on what information these images and videos communicate in context of this definition. How do they seem to be used and how might they be changing the nature of war? 



After showing an excerpt from Drone Propeller, tell students that they will be researching drone technology to prepare for a classroom debate on the question: Should Drones Be Used in War?  

Divide the class into small groups, and assign each group to research either the PRO or CON position. Tell the groups to conduct research into the topic and use the reproducible Should Remote Controls Be Used to Fight Wars? to plan and guide their research.

Ask them to keep the following questions in mind as they conduct their research:

  • When were drones first used?
  • Where are drones used today? Which countries have used drones and which countries have the capacaity to do so? 
  • What are the benefits of drone technology?
  • What are the harms of drone technology?
  • What numbers speak to either the pro or anti-drone position?

You might wish to share the publication CQ Researcher: Drone Warfare

(as well as the websites listed in the Resources section) with students as a starting point for their research. When the research is complete, host a classroom debate.


Going Further

Have students research advances in military aviation history, using the reproducible Aviation History Timeline Planner



Cortright Drones

The Economist: Flight of the Drones

The Evolution of Drone Warfare

The Drone Debate

History Detectives Lesson Plan: Cromwell Dixon: Researching and Creating Timelines About Aviation Pioneers


McRel Standards

United States History
25. Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs

26. Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II United States


Historical Understanding

1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

2. Understands the historical perspective


Language Arts

4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes



3. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

4. Understands the nature of technological design