If you’re a teacher or a parent who’s wanting to incorporate some fun learning into your classes or home life, then using a programmable drone for STEM education is the perfect, immersive experience that will get them excited and eager to learn about all aspects of engineering.
But with so many drones designed for STEM education available on the market today, how do you choose the right one?
Well, we’ve done all the research for you and put together a list of the top five programmable drones designed for STEM education. Let’s get learning!
What’s STEM Education?
Firstly, I wanted to make a quick note on what STEM education is, just for those of you who are new to the concept. STEM education covers teaching/learning in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Using programmable, educational drones, whether they’re purchased for your own learning or students in your class allows you to think more in-depth about the software and hardware that goes into these tiny pieces of tech.
Buying Guide: What to Look For When Buying Programmable Drones for STEM Education
If you’re wanting to purchase a drone for STEM education, there are a few factors to consider before purchasing.
Most educational drones are affordable and you can find a programmable drone for less than $100. Drones that you build yourself that aren’t programmable can be even cheaper which may be a more viable option depending on the budget you have for a class for example.
Most regular consumer drones don’t support flight indoors. However, educational drones usually do. It’s a useful feature as the weather may not always be on your side. Additionally, if you’re teaching in a classroom environment, you may have no other choice but to fly the drones indoors.
Safety is paramount when flying a drone, which is why all the drones I’ve listed today come with propeller guards to save fingers, especially if you’re teaching younger children who may be eager to grab the drone mid-flight.
One of the best ways you can learn about drones is building them yourself, and taking them apart again. This helps you to understand how all the components of a drone work together. That’s why we’ve included a couple of drones that require you to build them before flying.
The Best Programmable STEM Drones Review
Below, I’ve rounded up the top three drones for STEM education. As luck would have it, the drones below are all prebuilt and are only programmable. They’re slightly more expensive than some toy drones that you build yourself (and can’t program) but provide the perfect introduction to coding using block code and, as your learning progresses, can all be programmed using complex text code too.
The Tello drone is the ideal STEM learning drone for people of all ages. It’s super affordable, easy to fly, comes equipped with a camera that shoots 720p HD video, and is easily programmable; perfect for aspiring engineers.
This drone is the brainchild of two companies, Ryze and DJI, meaning it’s made of high-quality components that are durable and can handle some accidental knocks and crashes here and there. For an extra few bucks, you can also upgrade to the Iron Man version of the Tello so that you can release your inner Tony Stark – perfect for kids, and even us adults who are Marvel fanatics.
Programming of the Tello drone is done through the Tello EDU app which supports Scratch; a block-based visual programming language.
The downside to this drone, however, is that you can’t build it yourself meaning it’s more tailored to people who want to learn more about software engineering.
The Robolink drone is another great option for STEM students to learn about programming and block-based coding and was the first STEM drone ever released to the market.
Block coding is generally considered the ideal foundation for learning to code and is less complex than more full-on, text-based coding making it suitable for complete beginners or younger age groups if you’re purchasing drones for your class.
Codable parts include custom flight patterns, programming remotes, obstacle navigation, and avoidance, and much more! Users have commended its flawless integration with Python as well as Snap! Robolink’s website also provides students with “missions” and tutorials which is a great starting point for learning.
It can be used both indoors and outdoors and fairs well on a DIY obstacle course.
Tech giants Parrot launched an educational programme to inspire young engineers to get involved with coding drones. The Parrot Mambo Fly is available in two options; the mission and the FPV – learn more about FPV flying here.
However, like the other drones featured in our top three, it isn’t buildable.
Runner Up 1: Top Race DIY Drone
Designed for learners aged 14+, the Top Race DIY drone is a super affordable STEM learning drone that comes with 54 pieces to help students understand the physical aspects of building a drone.
It flips, does barrel rolls, and has propeller guards the whole way around it to prevent any sliced fingers. I like its capability for headless flying mode, so you don’t need to worry about the orientation of the drone mid-flight making it easier for younger students to pilot once its build.
It has been known to have a few glitches amongst users. The flight controls can sometimes be erratic and many have reported that it can break apart easily if there’s a crash. Nevertheless, it’s still an affordable way to learn the mechanics of building a drone as opposed to coding.
Runner Up 2: Remoking RC Drone
The Remoking RC, though the company advises it’s for use for people aged 14 and above, I think with adult supervision it would be a great STEM drone to try with younger kids too as the build isn’t too technical or complex. It comes with propeller guards for safety and can do the usual tricks and flips.
Frustratingly, it doesn’t have an on/off switch meaning the battery has to be removed for it to power down. It also only has a five minute flight time, meaning test flights need to be short and sweet but can be recharged in just 15 minutes. There’s also no way to code this drone and is purely to understand the mechanics. Nevertheless, it’s an affordable option that snaps together in less than an hour and doesn’t require any complex wire cutting or soldering.
Verdict: Which is the Best Programmable Drone for STEM education
If you’re just wanting to learn code, then Robolink Codrone really delivers and is the best choice of STEM drone for programming as well as additional support materials.
If you’re looking to study the hardware aspect of drones, however, because of the price of our runners up, I think they make a good additional drone to add to your collection. My recommendation being the Remoking.