Which Micro Drone Should I Buy
Our Recommendations for Drones in Schools
We often get asked, ‘which drone should I buy for our school?’ Well, here are some comments for micro drones, which weigh less than 100 grams.
The micro drones are great for schools just getting started as they are cheap, and the risk profile is relatively low. We have an eight-year-old son who has been using the micro drones since he was five. So, we know that young students can use the micro drones, but it is just the younger they are, the more space they need to fly as their hand-eye coordination isn’t well advanced. And expect more crashes!
We find that from Year 5 upwards is the ideal age for class activities using drones, given one to two adults per class. Nothing wrong with incorporating them into the younger grades, but we recommend more supervision, which of course is not always feasible.
This is / was our preferred drone, but just before Christmas 2018 they all went on sale and then were discontinued. Stocks are low, but you can still find them around at a few stores.
The Mambo is what we used in our programs for two years and it is a great drone for the following reasons:
- Price point – currently the base model (if you can get it) is AU$99;
- It is stable in flight;
- It has a downward facing camera which is good for doing mapping activities which align nicely to industry applications for the curriculum;
- It works well with Tynker for block coding, as well as Python and other more advanced scripting languages;
- Is sturdy and manages the rigours of students and classrooms; and
- Has an inbuilt lego attachment and other accessories that you can purchased.
Our recommendation is three batteries per drone, a battery charger, a set of spare propellers and propeller guards per drone. And of course with all the drones, remember the safety glasses!
DJI / Ryze Tello
The Tello came out in 2018 and they released a Tello EDU in late 2018. We have been testing the EDU. Overall it is a great drone to fly and is our preferred drone behind the Mambo. Here are our comments:
- It is a bit more expensive than the Mambo at $169 for the Tello and $219 for the EDU (you can get a discount through us);
- The largest difference between the Tello and Tello EDU is that the EDU allows more access to the Software Developers Kit (SDK), which is good for students wanting to do more advanced coding with Python. The rest of the drone is essentially the same;
- It has a good forward-facing camera that takes photos and video. It doesn’t have a downward facing camera that is accessible yet (we say ‘yet’ as we hope in the future that the downward facing camera will be accessible. Currently it is only used for stabilisation);
- Both the Tello and Tello EDU can be coded using Scratch or block coding.
- The battery life is better than the Mambo, with around 11 minutes of flying in normal conditions (advertised at 13 minutes, but this is likely in perfect conditions);
- As an additional safety feature it has an interesting cage that you can buy to completely cover the propellers;
- While created by the brand Ryze, it is using technology from drone and technology juggernauts DJI and Intel respectively. We are hoping for big things here;
- We have found that the Tello EDU has some wifi interference issues when multiple drones are flying at once, controlled by separate tablets if using the black Tello app. This means that connections between drones and the tablets are lost and landing or controlling drones becomes problematic. This is likely caused by the camera streaming and taking up bandwidth. This is resolved, if you are flying multiple drones in the classroom, by using the Tello Edu app (orange one), as it doesn't stream the video.
Find out more about the Tello here - https://store.dji.com/product/tello?vid=38421
And the Tello EDU here - https://store.dji.com/product/tello-edu?vid=47091
The CoDrone is another micro drone that we have tested recently as well. Here are our comments on it:
- It is more expensive than the Tello and Mambo, but in our opinion not as good a drone;
- It is not as stable in flight as the Tello or Mambo and tiny amounts of a breeze make it drift;
- A camera is an optional extra;
- It comes with a remote controller (for the CoDrone Pro at $269) that you can build – our seven year old built it (see video – https://youtu.be/f9KaM_w5ggI). 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.
No doubt there are many other options available out there for micro drones, but here is what we look for in the sub 100g category, in priority order.
- Price point that is affordable for schools to buy multiple craft;
- The drone has electronic stabilisation to make flying much easier;
- It can be coded using block coding and preferably other types of coding such as Python;
- It has at least a forward-facing camera, but preferably a downward facing camera; and
- It has a range of accessories, including spare batteries and a separate battery multi charge
We used to recommend the Parrot Mambo, but since stocks are so low, and there is no guarantee on the apps being maintained into the future, we recommend the Tello if you are just starting your drone fleet at schools! We don’t believe that the Tello EDU provides extra benefits through the SDK for the majority of schools.
The CoDrone is more expensive than the Tello, but the capability of the Tello is superior.
If purchasing the Tello, then the Tello Boost Combo is a well-priced pack that provides accessories and spares for schools.
We would only recommend the Tello EDU for schools that are looking to do more advanced coding with their students, and if your school has an advanced IT capability (or up for a large challenge!) to work through the set up.