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Over the past couple of years, drones have taken over Christmas wish lists and hobby stores. Drones have multiple uses, including capturing stunning aerial photography, rescuing lost hikers, aiding in shopping delivery, and even bringing innovative solutions to agricultural issues.
Moreover, drones provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in technologies they are interested in.
There is a wide range of drones to choose from for learning. The best drones for education can take students’ learning experiences to another level, allowing them to build devices that can fly. Drones are complex flying gadgets that can still be built by even younger students. With the help of several companies, students can now make drones and program their code as part of a STEM learning program.
A positive and engaging drone experience will have a beneficial impact on a student’s learning and set them up for drones’ extended future. Students will get adequate preparation for their careers. The workforce is struggling to keep up with the world’s changes. Therefore, to give your students a leg-up in the technical career race and enable them to reach their full potential, they need a thorough and hands-on experience with drones.
Most educational drones are built around STEAM learning. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and mathematics to guide students’ inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The goal is to have students who take thoughtful risks, develop problem-solving skills, embrace collaboration, engage in experiential learning, and work through the creative process.
Educational drones are usually low-priced and have excellent programs for students to learn how to code and build each UAV.
Before looking into the best drones for education, we must go through various factors that one should look for when choosing a drone.
Factors to consider when choosing a drone to use for education
When deciding on the amount of money that one wants to spend on buying drones, users should consider several factors. These factors include:
- The number of drones wants to purchase
- Is the drone ready-to-fly, or will the students be involved in its programming?
- How safe is the drone?
- Can the drones fly using the first-person view?
- Is everything needed to get started in the package, or are there any extra materials needed?
- How involved is the kit?
- And last but not least, which package will provide students with the best learning experience.
2. Age range
There are various drones suited to students who are at different levels of learning. A drone with elementary school applications would probably not be challenging enough for high school students who have advanced robotics knowledge. On the other hand, a very advanced drone will most probably not reach its full potential if used in an early education setting.
3. Buildability of the drone
Another critical factor to consider when deciding on a drone for your students is the drone’s buildability.
When looking for a drone, a few common acronyms will pop up like RTF (ready-to-fly), BNF (Bind-and-fly), and ARF (Almost-ready-to-fly).
- As the name suggests, ready-to-fly drones do not need any setup or assembly. All a user will be required to do is charge the batteries, install the propellers, or bind the controller to the quadcopter.
- A bind-to-fly drone is usually assembled but comes without a controller. With this model, you have to use the controller you already have or purchase one that is sold separately.
- Almost-ready-to-fly drones are typically like quadcopter kits. These drones might require partial assembly and don’t come with a transmitter or receiver. They also leave out several components like motors, flight controllers, or batteries.
If you want a ready-to-fly drone, a modular quadcopter would probably not be the best idea. Similarly, a drone that is not meant to be deconstructed wouldn’t serve its purpose in a robotics class.
By instead purchasing a STEM drone that can be taken apart, rebuilt, configured, and tuned, your students are provided with a fully immersive educational experience. These are the experience that, down the road, equate to career interest opportunities.
4. Safety features of the drone.
Having narrowed down your search to the right age range and drone buildability, next you need to consider your students’ safety. There is no debate about the fact that drones are fun to use. However, there is a level of risk involved in this type of fun.
To gain a better perspective on this, we will use the example of a Quadcopter. A quadcopter is a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors. Quadcopters are not supposed to weigh more than 55lbs. Most recreational and educational drones are on the lighter side of the spectrum.
However, there is still a significant amount of weight that propellers need to counteract to get the drone off the ground. Adding speeds that reach above 80mph, you create a mobile, airborne machine with four propellers that are fast enough to split skin and cause serious injury.
With drones, the risks involved are easily mitigated with reliable and precise safety measures. The PCS Edvetures Discover Drones educational package, for example, includes everything you need to place safety as a top priority. The kit includes LiPo battery security, a pre-flight safety checklist, safety glasses, and several policies to protect students’ well-being. With a kit like that that integrates safety protocols into the drones’ daily use and operation, instructors can focus on education.
Below is a list of standard safety features that most drones have:
- Programmable Failsafe
- Altitude Hold
- Return to Home
- Position Hold
- Prop guards
- And trainer radios.
5. Flight simulation software
Apart from programming the drone, learning how to pilot the drone is essential for students to learn. Just as the Air Force doesn’t immediately put training pilots into cockpits, it is not advisable to hand a radio controller to a student. The flight simulator software comes in handy in such a case. With the simulator, you can try out different maneuvers without worrying about ruining a new drone.
The first-person view displayed by the simulator even matches the perspective seen by drone racers wearing FPV goggles. Most drones can give pilots a birds-eye-view of their surroundings. Almost all drones are fitted with cameras to record videos or take pictures. However, very few drones are providing true FPV.
With FPV, the pilot wears a pair of goggles directly linked to the camera feed coming from the drone. The feed is real-time and shows the pilot exactly what is in the drone’s line of vision.
Together with FPV, several drones offer GPS functionality. While that is not necessary to get a drone in the air, a drone with GPS connectivity opens doors to increased safety and educational opportunities.
6. Professional development and support availability.
Drones have incredibly advanced technologies, and there is a lot to learn and prepare for before bringing drones into the classroom. When students have questions like why a drone needs to be connected to a minimum of seven GPS satellites to achieve a GPS locker, you need to replace a vital drone component; you need a drone safety net.
Before your drone lands in the hands of your students, you must be comfortable with handling it, whether through webinars or in-house training.
Eight best drones for education
Robolink CoDrone Lite & Pro educational kit
Robolink developed this educational drone in 2012 to encourage students to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) engagingly. Robolink does not just provide you with the drone but also gives you the curriculum learning platform as well as a community forum.
Robolink currently operates with two learning centers in San Diego, but they also ship their CoDrone Lite and Pro educational drones worldwide. The CoDrone Lite comes with a drone with Bluetooth technology on board. That allows your computer to communicate with the CoDrone.
Students learn how to program this drone using block coding in Snap and text-based coding in Python. Soon, the drone will be able to be coded in Blockly.
👉 Key features
- It has a flight time of 8 minutes.
- It has a flight range of 160m.
- The drone comes with a 3-axis gyroscope.
- It has a three-axis accelerometer for altitude control.
- Using its optical flow sensor, the drone can hover.
- It has an Infrared sensor for educational games.
- It comes with a barometer sensor to aid in altitude control.
- The drone weighs about 1.3 ounces (37 grams)
- The drone is Bluetooth enabled.
The CoDrone Pro is practically similar to the CoDrone Lite. It is everything the CoDrone Lite is and is also the Arduino-based remote. With CoDrone Pro, text-based coding is performed in the Arduino coding environment or programmed in Python in the CoDrone Lite.
Robolink has put together two packages, a solo package, and a classroom package.
The solo prices are $179.99 for the CoDrone Pro and $119.99 for the CoDrone Lite.
The prices are $1699.99 for the CoDrone Pro and $1369.99 for the CoDrone Lite for the classroom package. The classroom package comes with 12 CoDrones, and with the Pro package, you also receive 12 remote controllers.
Robolink recommends that no more than two learners for each drone in the classroom.
DJI Tello EDU drone
This educational kit combines advanced technology and education, making STEAM more relevant and exciting to young people. The DJI Tello EDU drone is a result of a collaboration between DJI and Ryze Robotics. It is a programmable drone and is perfect for education. Students learn how to code in Swift, Scratch, and Python with the Tello special development kit giving them a huge range of commands to work with.
👉 Key features
- It has low battery protection.
- It can take 5-megapixel photos.
- Its flight time is 13 minutes.
- The drone has precise hovering.
- With the kit, learners can program a swarm of drones.
- It has an auto takeoff and landing feature.
- It has failsafe protection.
- It gives access to video streaming data. The kit also has advanced functions like object recognition tracking, computer vision, 3D reconstruction, and deep learning technologies.
- With the Tello EDU drone, a special Tello Space Travel tutorial teaches students how to use the Swift programming language to code on an Ipad.
- The drone comes with mission pads for multiple uses. They aid in better coding and programming precision and serve as guiding points and trigger several flight and landing operations mechanisms.
- The drone has a Special Development Kit (SDK)
Sky Viper e1700 stunt drone kit
This educational drone is a great option for those who want to learn how to fly the drone and build it. With this drone, students can learn about the components that make up a typical drone. Moreover, the drone also has a fair price. The kit comes with everything you will need to build the drone from the ground up.
Its control board is based on some racing platform, with the drone being able to fly at 25 mph.
The Sky Viper e1700 kit contains the main body frame, flight controller board, four motors, four green propellers, four-blade guards, two green and two red arm covers, top and bottom covers, 650mAh LiPo battery and charger, two pro-style thumbsticks, power and stunt buttons, antenna housing, a sensitivity switch, front and rear controller housing, USB LiPo battery charger, transmitter circuit board, screws and screwdriver, two joystick thumb pads and covers and a manual.
The Sky Viper e1700 does not only have a fair price, but it is also the best platform to learn about drone technology and components.
👉 Key features
- Dual flight modes- Users get to choose their flight mode of preference, whether auto or manual. For the auto mode, the user’s altitude is kept hands free to fly forward, backward, and sideways, all at the same height.
- Users can adjust control responsiveness to match their piloting skills.
- Users can launch to a stationary hover by pressing a button and similarly land automatically with gentle precision by pressing the same button.
Parrot Mambo Fly educational drone
This mini quadcopter drone is easy, robust, intelligent, and very easy to fly. Its stable autopilot system, advanced flight controller, and powerful sensors make this drone one of the most stable drones on the market. This feature also makes the drone easy to fly both indoors and outdoors.
The drone remains stable even if you let go of the controls because the autopilot immediately takes over.
👉 Key features
- The drone has an autopilot feature that maintains the drone’s stability.
- It has a “cut-out system” feature where the motors shut down in case of any impact.
- It has a flight time of about nine minutes.
- Its battery only takes thirty minutes to charge.
- It has an Inertial Measurement Unit to evaluate speed, tilt, and obstacle contact.
- The drone has a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer giving it excellent flight stability.
- The drone has “follow you” technology and can take photos with its integrated 60 frames per second vertical camera and saves the images on your phone.
- Through the drone’s patented Smart Block system, it allows users to connect accessories to the drone.
- The drone can be controlled from your phone or tablet with the free flight Mini App, giving a range of 65 feet. The drone can also be controlled using the Fly pad remote controller, which ranges from 328 feet.
DJI Tello Iron Man edition
The DJI Tello Iron Man edition is almost similar to the Tello EDU app discussed above. Like the DJI Tello Edu drone, it also supports Python and Scratch programming languages. The main difference between this educational drone and the DJI Tello Iron Man is that the frame is designed based on the Iron Man movie character.
👉 Key features
- It comes with an extensive guide showing users how to fly it easily.
- It has innovative features like 360, Throw & Go, and 8D Flips, making it a lot easier to fly and fun to fly.
- The drone has an excellent camera and FPV with 720P HD transmission, Electronic Image Stabilization, and 5-megapixel photos.
- It has a flight time of about 13 minutes.
- Its flight range is 300 feet (100 meters).
Makeblock Airblock educational drone
Makeblock was founded in 2013 and has since then been a globally leading STEAM education solution provider. This educational drone is for families, schools, hobbyists, and educational institutions.
This educational drone is priced at $99.99, making it a fair price considering all the features that it offers.
👉 Key features
- It comprises one core master module and six power modules that connect magnetically, so the UAV is built quickly.
- The drone teaches users block-based programming, exercise logic, the principles of aerodynamics and helps develop critical thinking skills.
- It has a battery life of between six to eight minutes.
- It has a control distance of about 33 feet.
- It uses Bluetooth connectivity.
- It has an electronic sensor.
Drone Aviation PlutoX kit
This educational drone is a perfect choice for those who want to fly and experiment with building and design. The drone is an “Aerial Robotics Kit” that you can configure and program. The kit comes with a PlutoX nano- drone, a detailed learning manual, 10 DIY projects, easy-to-code software, hardware accessories, and modular hardware.
👉 Key features
- Users can create real-world applications for drones using Cygnus IDE, which is at the PlutoX software development center.
- It comes with a phone app called Pluto, and its users can make easy modifications by simply flashing a pre-written code through the app.
- The drone has a flight time of 9 minutes.
- The drone weighs 15 grams.
- Its frame is open source and modifiable.
The Parrot FPV Racing drone
This drone is one of the safest and most reliable drones with First Person View (FPV). It is the best option for users that want to start racing like the pros. With the included goggles, the drone allows the pilot to see a unique vantage point directly from the drone itself.
👉 Key features
- It is safe and easy to use
- Its battery lasts up to ten minutes.
- It provides its users with an immersive flight experience through the Parrot Cockpit glasses.
- It comes with a Mini app expanding users’ options for playing and experiences.
Important things to know for beginner drone pilots
- You must register your drone with FAA before you fly it.
- You must affix your drone number to your drone before flying it.
- If you are flying outdoors, you must comply with all FAA airspace rules.
- In the eyes of the FAA, a drone is an aircraft.
- To be able to fly in controlled airspace, you have to get authorization.
Where do people who want to learn about drones begin?
When you want to get into drones, the first thing you need to do is perform a self-assessment and ascertain why you want to learn how to fly a drone. Whether your reason for getting into drones is work-related or you want to learn about drones for fun, the next important step is coming up with a budget.
For beginners who want to learn to fly a drone, it is recommended that they first start with a toy, learn on a simulator, use an educational drone kit and take a live class or get lessons from an experienced pilot.
Is it hard to fly a drone?
No. Drones are easy to fly. However, they are easy to crash and therefore require some general knowledge to avoid crashing them or losing them. Nevertheless, anyone that can use a smartphone is perfectly capable of learning how to fly a drone.
Even though there are only a few drones dedicated to education, the ones that are there are dedicated to ensuring the smooth integration of new users into the world of drones. Education should start with safety. There are rules to the sky, and one should affiliate themselves with them before they can start flying their drones.
Finally, your topic of education will determine the best drone for you. It is recommended to start with cheaper drones if you want to learn how to fly. However, if you want to teach more advanced techniques, you will need to purchase a more expensive drone.