The best drones for education can quite literally take students to another level, allowing them to build a device that can fly. We struggle to think of a better metaphor for education that works to free and elevate the minds of students.
Drones are complex flying gadgets yet they can still be built by even younger students. Thanks to many companies now offering build-it-yourself drone kits, it's possible for a student to make a drone and program its code as part of a STEM learning project.
Imagine a school-built drone with a camera being used to shoot promotional videos, or to get images to showcase the campus – all with the students being given credit for creating and programming the drones. Get the photography club to snap the shots and they can get involved too.
Other uses abound, such as drone racing, which is a growing sport in the U.S. and beyond. Or as a way to improve hand-eye coordination, or provide new experiences for students who may struggle with mobility.
So which are the best drones for education? This list lays out the best options, each with its own special skills, to help you pick the perfect flying partner for your school.
1. Robolink CoDrone Lite Educational: Best overall drone for education
The Robolink CoDrone Lite Educational drone and Pro models are available as stand-alone or as bundles for schools. In either case, these allow students to learn how to physically build the drone as well as how to program it.
Programming is done via an Arduino coding environment, or can be done using Python in the CoDrone Lite setup. The system lets students learn to code with blocking coding in Snap, text-based coding in Python, and coding in Blockly.
The drone itself is small and light but features auto hovering, infrared sensors for educational games, and a barometer sensor to assist with altitude control. The limited eight-minute flight time isn't ideal, nor the max 160-foot range – but since this is more about building and tinkering than flying, these limits aren't a problem.
2. Ryze and DJI Tello EDU: The best camera drone for coding
The Ryze DJI Tello EDU is the result of a team-up between Ryze Robotics and the king of drone manufacturers, DJI. The result is an impressively specced drone for the price, complete with 720p, 30fps camera onboard, object recognition, auto take off and landing, and a failsafe protection system.
You get lots of coding options here with Scratch, Python, and Swift all available. This model also can work with other drones of the same type for a swarm mode so all can "dance" together. Mission pads offer uses as take-off and landing zones. This unit also offers a better-than-most 13 minutes worth of flight time. Plus you can add a Special Development Kit (SDK) for lots of creative tinkering – ideal for curious and eager bright minds.
3. Sky Viper e1700: Best affordable educational drone
The Sky Viper e1700 is a stunt drone that can be built from its basic parts and programmed to perform tricks. The fact this also flies at up to 25 mph is another feature that helps to make it a lot of fun while remaining educational.
This unit is great for hand-eye coordination as it not only has the usual auto hover flight mode, but features pure manual, which requires a decent amount of skill, concentration, and patience to master. Despite the low price, it comes with lots of parts, including spares, which are great if the unit is going to get a lot of beginner pilots trying to control it manually.
4. Parrot Mambo Fly: Best educational drone for coding options
The Parrot Mambo Fly is a very compelling drone option as it's made by a well-known drone manufacturer and is modular. This means students can build different drones based on what is attached, from a high-quality 60 fps camera to a cannon or grabber system. While that flexibility creates many options for real-world uses, the programming side is also impressive.
5. Makeblock Airblock: Best modular educational drone
The Makeblock Airblock is a modular drone that consists of one core master unit and six other modules that can be easily attached magnetically. It is designed and built by a STEM learning specialist and, as such, features comprehensive learning options. The Airblock comes with a dedicated mBlock 5 programming platform that features block-based and text-based coding.
The Neuron app, which this comes with, is flow-based programming software that allows students to integrate this drone's actions with other devices such as artificial intelligence or Internet of Things smart gadgets. All that makes for a very creative and comprehensive learning experience from what is a well-priced drone.