The world of drones can be very intimidating. Learning to fly them, worrying about crashing or losing them, etc. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here is a breakdown of my favorite drones, why they are favorites, and what they can offer you and your students.
Without a doubt and in my opinion, the best drone you can buy for your money is just about anything in the Parrot Mini Drone family. They offer many different models. Choosing can be tough. Generation 1 is a strong, stable drone but as they released new models they really did improve the quality and experience you get with the drones. Generation 3 is a big improvement upon the latter generations. Check out the graphic to help you decide what will fit best for you and your students.
Parrot Mini Drones are very fun to fly with FreeFlight Mini, the free remote control app, but the real benefit is their ability to accept block coded programs from the free Tynker app for Android or iOS. Instead of error filled flights with erratic crashes and unpredictable movements you will have a room full of carefully calculated movement. When there is a crash, you see it coming and can be ready for it. This is not the chaos you are imagining it to be.
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All generations of the drones are very durable. My oldest first generation drones have been crashed hundreds of times. Parts fly off, parts snap back on. To this day, I have never had to buy a single replacement part.(knock on wood) However, if I did, every part you could imagine is available to you at a very affordable price.
Battery life is about 10 minutes of sustained flight. When flown in the classroom with clear objectives a battery can last over a 45 minute class period. If you did need batteries you can buy a non-name brand charger with 3 batteries for about $30 on Amazon. Each drone comes with a single removable battery and can also be charged via USB.
With all great things there has to be a few down sides. Parrot Mini Drones are no exception to that rule. The thing I dislike the most is not being able to rename the drones to something easier for my students and myself. The long names are awkward at best. I resorted to writing the assigned drone serial numbers on the bodies and props of each drone. It isn’t pretty but it helps us figure out what drone we are about to code and pilot. All of the drones have cameras but they are not very good. In fact, I completely ignore that fact that they have cameras at all. The quality is akin to your grampa's flip phone camera, why bother.
The only other drawback could be considered the greatly varied pricing. The highest pricing comes directly from Parrot but some districts require this sort of buying. If you look on Amazon you can find refurbished units much cheaper than new and the new units are much cheaper than anywhere else. The best advice I can give you is to decide on the drone you want according to features then shop for the best price. This goes for accessories too. For example, you may be able to buy a drone with the optional Flypad controller for just a few dollars more than just buying a Flypad controller.
Looking for a single drone to just have some fun with? My favorite is the Swing. It flies as a drone but with a tap of the controller it turns into an airplane complete with pre programmed barrel rolls and loops. It is just pure fun and you’ll quickly look like a pro when flying it. For $53, how can you go wrong?