Drones are not going to be a flash in the pan technology. They are going to bring in the new wave of jobs as our primary school students of today enter the workforce of 2030. This guide is designed to help teachers know which drone to buy for their school, where to buy it, how to buy it, and which ones not to buy.
If you don’t feel entirely sure on what your classroom needs are, head to our Ultimate Guide to Buying Drones For Your School. This covers all of the considerations you need to be thinking about when you are incorporating a drone into your curriculum. This guide below is for when you are choosing between drones and want to know which one will best meet your needs. We cover the considerations from the Ultimate Guide in our reviews below:
- How to buy an educational drone for kids
- Where to buy a drone for kids
- Discontinued drones
- Drones not recommended for kids in school
- Main considerations when reviewing drones
- The Drone Review
This visual resource will help you contrast and compare the educational drones we recommend according to your classroom needs. Simply sign up to our newsletter (if you havenn’t already) and you’ll be able to access it.
How to buy an educational drone for kids
There are many ways to buy your drones, but as an educator, your needs are a bit different to that of a hobbyist or industry user. So, here are some things to consider:
- Buy from someone who has a deep understanding about education and how-to best support teachers. There are plenty of drones to buy online, but often support is average at best if you have tech challenges or need warranty support (you are time poor as a teacher already).
- There are drones for classrooms and drones for Christmas toys. Drones for classrooms need to last through the hands of multiple students, be transported from classroom to classroom and be intuitive and simple to use. Christmas toy drones often don’t last beyond the end of Christmas holidays, or are cared for by a single child as their most precious possession!
- Like all technology, the latest release is just around the corner, or like our previous favourite the Parrot Mambo, could be discontinued completely. So be aware of deep online discounts when purchasing. But also, don’t be cranky if you purchase something and then a few weeks later something new is released.
- We have been a distributor of Parrot and DJI products for the last three years and there are often rumours around of a new release coming (like the leaked rumours of the latest iPhone), but we don’t find out the actual true details until either a couple of weeks before or even on the day of release.
- The best thing to do is to talk to a supplier who will understand your needs as an educator, and knows the market well, and they can provide you as accurate advice as possible
Where to buy a drone for kids
We use the DJI products because by virtue of them having over 78% of the market, the apps, accessories, and resources that are developed for them are very good. The technology hardware is also excellent (although with any technology there will always be warranty issues). We test, use, and sell DJI products because they are a good product with excellent warranty support through our Australian distributor. We continue to test other products for their education and mapping suitability as they become available.
We will continue to update this list of discontinued or ‘short supply’ drones.
Our favourite microdrone when we started our programs in 2016. But in late 2018 Parrot announced it was leaving the microdrone market. There are still some Mambos available in various parts of the world, but for how much longer we are not sure. The Mambo has completely left the Australian market.
Discontinued in 2018. Parrot is focusing on the Anafi in the sub-2kg market.
When the DJI Mavic Mini came out, the Spark went on sale and ran out. Whilst there might be a few around still, and accessories are still available online at the DJI store, we don’t expect this drone to make a comeback.
Drones not recommended for kids in school
These are drones that we’ve tried and tested over the years and we don’t recommend. Not necessarily because they’re bad drones, simply because they don’t work well for classroom education.
An excellent concept but could be frustrating for students. Building the drone is cool but having to then rebuild it when you crash (which is likely to occur every flight when you are learning), then the novelty wears off pretty quickly. It was unstable in flight and even fell apart mid-flight on one occasion.
We have a love for Lego and really wanted to recommend this for schools, particularly Primary Schools, but we just can’t see it being an easy and enjoyable tech experience in the classroom. If you just want to build and not fly, this is an option, but not a cost-effective way to do this.
We have tested the CoDrone and decided not to recommend it to schools for the following reasons:
- It is more expensive than the Tello, but in our opinion is inferior;
- It is not as stable in flight as the Tello and tiny amounts of a breeze make it drift;
- A camera is optional and extra cost;
- It comes with a remote controller (for the CoDrone Pro at $269) that you can build. Our then seven-year-old built it (see the video below). But the pieces are fragile looking and with pins etc, so not too sure how long it would last being built and taken apart multiple times; and
- It can be coded using block coding in its native app from Petrone. There are no other (that we can find) third parties building apps for it, which limits its extension.
Again a really great concept with building the controller and being able to learn about the different components. We have spoken to a couple of schools using these drones and they have had some good use out of multiple rebuilds of the controller by students. But, knowing how hardy equipment needs to be in the majority of schools, and tight budgets for many, this one doesn’t make it to our recommended list.
Main considerations in our drone review
Below is a review of drones we recommend for educational purposes in the classroom. To make a fully informed decision, we recommend reading The Ultimate Guide to Buying A Drone For Your School. This is an in-depth look at the considerations you need to think about when buying a drone.
These considerations are covered below as they relate to each drone (where they are applicable):
- Out of box ease of use
- Time to learn
- Level of skill
- Ratio of drones to students
- Best for
Head over to the Ultimate Guide for a deeper look at how these relate to your classroom.
The Drone Review
RRP $169 / Tello Boost Combo RRP $239 AUD
Out of box ease of use:
Simple to use straight out of the box. Charge the battery, download the app, connect the drone and device via wifi, open the app and fly. It is a little ‘clunky’ having to connect the drone to your device via the device wifi settings, rather than in the app, but it works well.
Students who have never flown before and schools wanting a great entry-level drone for block and python based coding.
Recommended student:drone ratio:
1 drone per 3 students.
A great drone with some really amazing technology squeezed into its 80 grams. There are a couple of need to knows though to get the most out of this drone in a classroom environment:
- Buy the Tello Boost Combo as it gives you extra batteries. With a flight time of nine minutes on one battery and with a charge time of up to 90 minutes, you want extra batteries. Note that although it is advertised to fly for up to 13 minutes, this is in ‘ideal’ conditions with a battery completely drained (not recommended). Our testing shows that nine minutes is realistic.
- If you are flying multiple Tellos in your classroom, and using the black Tello app for ‘manual flight’ you will get a ‘wifi interference’ error. This is because the drone is live-streaming the video to the device, which is using massive bandwidth. The solution is to use the orange Tello Edu app for manual flight, as it doesn’t live stream the video.
The camera is only forward-facing, unlike the Parrot Mambo which allowed access to its downward-facing camera. To get ‘industry like’ realism to gather data, then we have a workaround with a 3D printed attachment for a mirror over the forward-facing camera.
DJI Tello Education
RRP $219 AUD
Out of box ease of use:
Exactly the same experience as the standard Tello.
Schools that want to do some more advanced coding with the Software Developers Kit. It also has some more AI functions. The majority of Primary Schools will not come close to needing this level of functionality, and even some early high school programs will not use it to its full potential.
Recommended student:drone ratio:
1 drone per 3 students.
All the same comments as with the standard Tello, except that this version doesn’t come with a Boost Combo, so we recommend you buy the accessories separately. The drone is the exact same drone hardware wise as the standard Tello, except for some cosmetic changes like a transparent cover. The main difference is in the ability to access the SDK, which makes it a powerful drone for coding enthusiasts.
The sub-2kg category can be split into two subsections:
- The recreational/hobbyist drone user who wants to take great photos; and
- The professional/prosumer drone user who wants to get a high-quality camera or be able to conduct mapping missions to gather data.
Out of the box ease of use:
All the drones below are relatively simple to use straight out of the box, after you have gone through the usual start-up, charge batteries, register etc. Flying outdoors though does create some additional considerations with getting your GPS home location in the right place and compliance with regulations. So take your time before you fly!
Schools that are interested in using a drone to capture high-quality photos and videos for promotional purposes or creative media classes for example. Beyond pretty pictures, these drones are excellent for field trips and data collection especially for geography and environmental science classes. Note that there is still a huge range of capability within this sub-2kg category, the actual best use case will vary depending on the drone choice.
Recommended student:drone ratio:
We recommend only one drone at a time per class/activity. More than one sub 2kg drone up as a teacher and you are going to turn into a messy ball of stress! Obviously, these larger drones are a significantly larger investment as well, so you may not be able to afford a higher drone to student ratio!
There are several drones in this category that can capture excellent data for environmental observation and monitoring purposes. Combine this capability with the limitations on the student to drone ratio, the education focus on purchasing one of these drones really needs to be on the application of the data or footage collected. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have very small class sizes and you are happy to hand over the controls of a piece of an expensive piece of equipment, then your students will love the flying component as well. We highly recommend assessing competence with the microdrones first though. It’s a great idea to get the students to demonstrate they can achieve their ‘junior drone operator’ license with something smaller and cheaper before graduating to your prized drone.
DJI Mavic Mini
RRP $599 / Fly More Combo RRP $799
A great intro drone for schools wanting to try out drones and give teachers or students a taste of flying outdoors and getting some really good pictures and videos.
Super portable so great for field trips needing photos and videos. This doesn’t have obstacle avoidance so make sure you have confident operators. Note that the mapping apps are not currently compatible, so it’s unsuitable for autonomous flight.
DJI Mavic Air
The photos and videos are a step up from the Mavic Mini, given that it has obstacle avoidance. However, it also has significantly less battery life. Recommend that you spend more time practicing to fly rather than relying on the sensors, then go with the cheaper and more portable Mini.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
This is a top of the range drone, as far as most schools will be concerned. Super high quality photos and videos. Make sure that you don’t buy the model that comes with a screen (Pro +). This does not integrate with third party mapping applications.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2
Best option for mapping due to the mechanical shutter on the camera compared to the rolling shutter on other options. Great for photos and videos. The Phantom 4 Pro V2 is less portable than other options and therefore less suited to field excursions.
Like the Mavic Pro 2, make sure that you don’t buy the model that comes with a screen (Pro +). This does not integrate with third party mapping applications.
There you have it, our review on which drones work for educational purposes. We always love to hear how educators are getting on with their choices. Email us at [email protected] and let us know how you’re going!