What are the Best Educational Drones for Kids in School?

She Maps Team
30 Jan 2020
a pair of school girls wearing safety glasses and holding a micro drone

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 students
  • Where to buy a drone for students
  • Our Recommended Drones
  • Discontinued drones
  • Drones not recommended for students in school

How to Buy Educational Drones for Students?

There are many ways to buy drones for your drone lessons. 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 upset if you purchase something and then a few weeks later something new is released.
  • We have been a distributor of Parrot and now DJI products since 2017, 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. But resellers should be able to tell you where things are heading based on stock availability, and by them having a good relationship with their distributor (like we do)!

The best thing to do is to talk to a supplier who will understand your needs as a teacher, knows the market well, and then they can provide you as accurate advice as possible.

drone in hand 480x354

Where to Buy a Drone for Students?

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.

Our Drone Recommendations

Main Considerations in Our Drone Review

Below is a review of drones we recommend for the purposes of implementing your drone STEM curriculum. 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.

Microdrones

DJI Tello EDU

She Maps 3 types of drones dji tello

Cost

RRP $219 / Tello EDU Boost Combo RRP $299 AUD (July 2021)

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.

It works well with the Tello Edu app for block based coding and DroneBlocks for block and line based coding.

Best for

Students who have never flown before and schools wanting a great entry-level drone for block and line based coding.

Recommended student: drone ratio

1 drone per 3 students.

Our comments

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:

  1. Buy the Tello EDU Boost Combo as it gives you extra batteries. With a flight time of nine minutes on one battery and with a charge time of around 20 minutes per battery (if discharged to around 25%), 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.
  2. 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, we have a workaround with a 3D printed attachment for a mirror over the forward-facing camera. 

DJI Tello (Consumer)

What is the difference?

This Tello is exactly the same experience as the Tello EDU, except it is marketed towards the consumer retail market and education resellers cannot sell it.

The Tello EDU does allow access to the Software Developers Kit which provides students who are wanting to do more advanced coding with additional option. It also seems that DJI will be developing more educational resources and apps for the EDU version in time.

Our thoughts

Until the recent change by DJI to stop smaller resellers from selling the Tello (consumer) microdrone, we were recommending this version. But now that it is only available in Australia from the ‘big box’ retailers, who have a limited understanding of the education market, we are only selling the EDU versions.

Sub-2kg Drones

The sub-2kg category can be split into two subsections:

  1. The recreational/hobbyist drone user who wants to take great photos; and
  2. 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 sub 2kg 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!

Best for

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!

Our comments

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 pilot’ license with something smaller and cheaper before graduating to your prized drone.

DJI Mavic Mini 2

Cost

RRP $749 / Fly More Combo RRP $949 (July 2021)

Best for

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. 

Our comments

This technically fits into the microdrone category at 249gm, but definitely not one for flying indoors! 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 drone mapping missions.

DJI Mavic Air 2S

Cost

RRP $1699 / with Fly More Combo RRP $2,099 (July 2021)

Our comments

It packs a lot into its 595gm and takes amazing photos and videos. It’s a real step up from the Mavic Mini 2. Flight time in perfect conditions of 30 minutes. The Air 2S doesn’t integrate with drone mapping mission apps, so isn’t any good for those wanting to gather data for creating maps.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

She Maps 3 types of drones dji mavic 2
DJI Mavic 2

Cost

RRP $2499 / with Fly More Combo RRP $3,148 (July 2021)

Our comments

This is a top of the range drone, as far as most schools will be concerned. Super high quality photos and videos. This is what we recommend for schools wanting a great workhorse of a drone for photos, videos, and drone mapping missions for Geography classes etc. 

Make sure that you don’t buy the model that comes with a screen/smart controller (Pro +) as this model does not integrate with third party mapping applications. The Zoom model is great for those wanting for more photography applications, but the sensor (camera) is not as good for data capture.

Discontinued Drones

We will continue to update this list of discontinued or ‘short supply’ drones.

Parrot Mambo

Our favourite microdrone when we started our drone 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.

Parrot Bebop

Discontinued in 2018. Parrot is focusing on the Anafi in the sub-2kg market.

DJI Spark

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.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The ubiqtuos DJI Phantom drone was the first large scale production DJI drone. In mid 2021 it was announced that it was going to be retired.

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 drone education in the classroom.

Lego Flybrix 

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), gets old 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 focus more on the building, rather than the code and fly, this is an option, but not one that we believe meets the curriculum needs.

CoDrone

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 as part of their drone curriculum 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.

AirWood

A great concept to have a drone body made out of wood, with templates you can laser cut. Snap on motors and a camera. But the execution, particularly for a classroom environment would leave you frustrated.

We built this at home, and it took us about an hour to build. In the process we managed to break a bit of the wooden body as we pushed too hard to connect two pieces. This didn’t affect the final build, but did show that breakages with students were likely.

The flying of the drone was not easy. Without the great stabilisers like the Tellos, this drone was a bit of a beast to handle. After a few too many crashes, adjustments to try and get the weight right, we soon realised that this one wasn’t going on our recommended list.

Circuit Scribe Drone Builder Kit

Another kits that promise much for the beginner flyer and the classroom, but underperforms. 

This one is what we would call a semi build, where you clip the motors and central control unit onto the arms, connected via a metallic strip. You can also use the cardboard arms and conductive ink to create alternative drone bodies.

All up, less than 5 minutes to put together, but like with the AirWood, the flying was frustrating compared to the Tellos.

A lack of stabilisation means that it is a challenging flying experience, and not quite meeting the mark for its target market of primary schools. Despite the tempting price of $40, this one earns a spot on out ‘not recommended’ list.

Quick Summary

Our Education Director, Dr Karen Joyce has done up a quick video about common drones teachers are using.

  • 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! 

Also check out our list of reasons why kids should fly educational drones for more information.

Need more information on drones for schools? We recommend that you check out the following articles: 

About She Maps.

She Maps is Australia’s leading experts in drone and geospatial education. 

Here’s three ways She Maps can help:

  1. Teachers Guide – Learn how to set up a Drone Program – Free eBook & Learning Solutions Guide 
  2. Teacher Resources – Find out more about our programs here and purchase individual programs here 
  3. Teacher Professional Development & Support – Discover how we can provide ongoing PD and support with our She Maps Membership here

You’re in Safe Hands!

She Maps is a CASA approved commercial operator to fly microdrones indoors with students and teachers. CASA holds commercial operators, to a higher standard than recreational users and educators. This means that She Maps has been assessed by CASA as having rigorous training and risk mitigation procedures in place.

Ready to buy drones for your school? We are an authorised DJI reseller in Australia

Want some help?

Schedule a call with Paul to get some personalised recommendations

a headshot image of Paul Mead
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