We often get asked, ‘Which drone should I buy for our school?’
If you’re starting out with drones and deciding what your classroom needs, we recommend you head over to our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Drone for Your School. This guide outlines everything from whether drones are right for your school, to what size drone is right for your classroom needs.
This blog covers the three levels (by weight and therefore risk) of drones we recommend for schools.
3 Types of Drones
There are three levels of drones we are going to discuss and recommend for schools, depending on what you are wanting to achieve. They are defined by weight, and in this blog we are using the Australian CASA definitions.
- Micro – 250gm or less. In this category, we are are going to discuss sub 100gm; and 100gm – 250gm.
- Very Small – 250.01gm – 2kg
Microdrone sub 100gm
Microdrones that are under 100gm are great for schools that are just getting started, as they are cheap and the risk profile is relatively low. These are best for students who have never flown before and schools wanting a great entry-level drone for block and line based coding.
We recommend around one microdrone (sub 100gm) per three students. If you as a teacher are just getting started, then starting with no more than five drones flying at once is probably enough to keep your stress levels in check! We comfortably fly with 10 microdrones in the air at once, with up to 30 students.
These drones are flown indoors, and flying them outdoors presents some challenges due to their weight. In a little breeze they tend to drift, and with visual positioning sensors only and not GPS, they can’t ‘return to home’.
We have had students in Year 1 successfully flying sub 100gm microdrones. Young students can use them, but the younger they are, the more space they need to fly as their hand-eye coordination isn’t well advanced. And expect more crashes!
There are so many microdrones on the market, but a lot of them are designed for hobbyists or drone racing, not educational use.
This is what we look for in the sub 100gm category, in priority order.
Price point that is affordable for schools to buy multiple craft.
Is robust enough to handle the crashes.
The drone has electronic stabilisation to make flying ‘out of the box’ much easier.
It can be coded using block coding and preferably other types of coding such as Java and Python.
It has at least a forward-facing camera, but preferably a downward facing camera.
It has a range of accessories, including spare batteries and a separate battery multi charge.
We started our program using the Parrot Mambo before this was discontinued. We now use the DJI Tello range.
Microdrone sub 250gm
The drones in this category and the Sub 2kg range 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!
DJI bought out a 249gm Mavic Mini in 2020, mainly to circumnavigate the 250gm limit in legislation, meaning fewer restrictions on pilots and where they can fly them. Whilst they are still in the microdrone category we don’t consider them to be in the same risk category as the sub 100gm microdrones, and would never recommend them to be flown indoors.
These are very capable drones, with a fully functioning camera, GPS, and other amazing features built in, similar to their big sisters!
These are not drones we would recommend schools start their students on, but the DJI Mavic Mini is a great first ‘proper’ drone, and is a good entry for schools wanting to get started with outdoor flight practice, pretty pictures and videos.
The availability of the SDK (Software Developers Kit) is sometimes limited by DJI on these models, meaning that third party apps don’t support these models. This limits the ability for the Mavic Mini to conduct drone mapping missions.
Very Small - Sub 2kg
There are a large range of drones in this category, with DJI leading the market in both range, and market penetration. Others in this category include the Parrot Anafi and the Autel Robotics range.
The range goes from hobbyist level drones, such as the DJI Air range, through to the Prosumer/Commercial range with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, Parrot Anafi, Autel Evo range, and others.
The different across this category is firstly in weight, and then the size of the camera and other sensors. Like the Mavic Mini, the DJI Air SDK availability also limits its ability to conduct drone mapping missions.
We recommend that if schools are looking to use a Sub 2kg drone, that they first consider a couple of things:
- Checking that there are no restrictions on being able to fly a drone outdoors, in the school or preferred flying location. Check out CASA ‘Can I Fly There’.
- Understand the educational learning outcomes you are wanting to achieve. For example, if you are wanting to use it in Geography, then it is highly likely that gathering data from a drone mapping mission is critical. Therefore ensuring the drone you get can use third-party mapping apps is essential.
- Most drones have a ‘fly more combo’, so make sure you factor this into the cost so you have spare batteries.
- Other accessories might be needed too, like SD Cards, a hard case to protect the equipment, safety equipment.
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!
We highly recommend assessing competence with the microdrones (sub 100gm) 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.
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:
- Teachers Guide – Learn how to set up a Drone Program – Free eBook & Learning Solutions Guide
- Teacher Resources – Find out more about our programs here and purchase individual programs here
- Teacher Professional Development & Support – Discover how we can provide ongoing PD and support with our She Maps Membership here
Ready to buy drones for your school? We are an authorised DJI reseller in Australia
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