There are many facets and levels of drone education. We will focus on the best educational drones for beginner pilots, perhaps best for children.
Drones like the UVify OOri and the Ryze Tello have proper education programs centered around them. These platforms teach you some drone hardware basics, then promote critical thinking as you code flight features for the drone. The basics of flight are covered, the machine will hover in place, but you tell it where to go in the sky, just watch out for that wall.
Related reading: The FAA celebrated STEM and drones in education during their Drone Safety Awareness Week.
There are only a few dedicated educational drones, but luckily, with the right instructor, anything can be a lesson.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
DJI Robomaster TT: Robotics competition aircraft
The DJI Robomaster TT (short for Tello Talent) is a part of DJI’s robotics competitions. Along with the Robomaster S1 ground robot, the Robomaster TT is made as both an educational platform for new students, as well as a platform for growth using more advanced systems. Accessory ports and coding tools give this drone purpose in any classroom.
UVify OOri: Educational racing drone, DroneCode compatible
The UVify OOri is a powerful and fun mini racing drone, not only is it ideal as a starter drone for drone racers, UVify made it to work with the DroneCode software. DroneCode is open source flight software that is accessible for students to code and learn. program your own navigational tasks, adjust flight parameters and more.
Ryze Tello: Code flight for this fun indoor drone
The Ryze Tello is a fun little drone that is great for indoor flight, first time pilots, and tinkerers of computer code. While the newer DJI Robomaster TT takes things to the next level, the original Tello by Ryze offers most of the same flight features and characteristics.
Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade: Powered Boomerang
The Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade is a three-blade boomerang that has a single propeller that drives rotation of the aircraft. While it offers no direct educational tools, I recall my grade school teacher using a boomerang to help explain the basics of flight to me. Inspire creative thinking with multiple directions of lifting force in one craft.
Hubsan H111: Tiny nano drone
The Hubsan H111 has no implicit educational properties, save for it being a super safe drone for indoor flight. Easy to fly, but tough to master, this toy aircraft is fun and affordable, making it ideal for new pilots. Beyond the basics of flight, experienced pilots can continue to hone their skills as well.
Pixhawk4 S500 V2
The Pixhawk 2 S500 V2 is a drone kit that you build from scratch. It is more of a project to learn about the Dronecode initiative, that’s open source software with the PX4 flight control. Learning how to assemble a drone and then code its flight is a powerful education, and the Dronecode system can grow with you well beyond your first machine.
Check out the Pixhawk4 S500 V2.
NXP manufactures sensors and smarts for all sort of electronics. Their hardware is working hard behind the scenes of a lot of cars on the road, and their move to drones is proving a good fit. Once again, Dronecode and the PX4 flight control software are the choice here, but NXP has built a kit specifically to head for the HoverGames challenges.
Check out the NXP HGDRONEK66.
Special consideration: DJI Robomaster S1 robot
We won’t pretend for a minute that the DJI Robomaaster S1 can fly, but it is a superb STEM robot. Actually, if you count jumping from ramps to be flying, the S1 is fast enough to get some air… Anyhow, you get to build this machine from parts, there are good instructions, but learning how everything works, what the components are, and how they all work together is a good life skill. Once built, you have a peppy and agile robot that shoots BBs and laser beams! It can also detect incoming hits from each of those for your own war games, or use image sensors to create an elaborate Mario Kart race.
The DJI Robomast S1 runs $488 and up.
That will wrap up here today, remember to begin any drone education program with flight safety and going over the laws. Also, be sure to start with simulators or tiny drones until the students learn how to control the sticks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I teach my kids about drones?
As a rough syllabus, you might consider something like this:
1. What is a drone, how do they work?
2. Drone safety, laws, regulations, and best practices for safe flights.
3. What parts and tools do I need to build/maintain/fly a drone.
4. How to build a drone.
5. How to fly a drone – including how to find a safe place to fly, and get FAA authorization, if needed.
6. How to program a drone to do more stuff.
7. First steps to getting your Part 107 certification.
What kind of drone do I need for drone education?
To be honest, your topic of education will determine the best drone for you. We recommend you start with inexpensive machines to learn how to fly, but you’ll need more expensive drones if you want to teach advanced camera techniques. There are levels when it comes to building and coding as well. Machines like the Ryze Tello are great for the simple stuff, like basic flight navigation, but you’ll need a more significant platform if you want to dive into adding modules to the airframe. You might play with parachutes, cameras, obstacle avoidance sensors, radar/sonar systems, lighting, cargo systems, and more. A good camera will weigh more than the Tello itself.
For more advanced learning, we recommend you look at hardware that supports the PX4 stack. DroneCode is a popular and powerful program that can work for everyone from the beginner pilot up to an advanced commercial aircraft.
Do I need a license to be a drone teacher?
At this time, no, you do not need a license for the classroom portion of educating others on drones. However, the moment you step outdoors and take to the sky, in the FAA’s eyes you are being paid to fly, making it a Part 107 operation. The FAA is willing to work with educational institutions to establish drone corridors and programs that will not need Part 107 certification for classes, but chances are that if your school was already approved, or in the process of getting that approval, you’d already know more about these rules than I do.
Do students need a drone license?
Yes. As of July 2021, the FAA requires that all hobby pilots obtain their TRUST certification. This is a fairly short class and test that is free and anyone can write. Pilots that will be compensated for their flights still fall under the Part 107 guidelines, requiring the Part 107 certificate.
How does Remote ID affect my drone education?
The need for Remote ID will be a further deterrent for potential new pilots. In an education setting, schools will be allowed to apply to be marked as an FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA). This designation means that any drone flying within the zone, that is authorized to do so by the owner of the FRIA, will not need to have its own ID broadcast. If your institution cannot acquire this designation, each and every drone and pilot will have to register and transmit an ID.