Drone technology has developed massively in the past 5 years, with drones now widely used for photography, filming, racing, surveillance and even delivery! There are tons of different types available, but recently we have also seen a wave of drones hit the market with an educational element to them. Some of the kits listed here have a focus on building and experimenting with drone designs, whilst others have more of a focus on programming flight paths. We have tried to include a mix of both in our list of the best DIY drone kits in 2017. Read on for our recommendations!
Flybrix is an innovative little build your own drone kit for kids that combines Lego bricks with motors and other electrical components. Follow the instructions to assemble your drones chassis with the Lego pieces, connect all the wiring and electrical components, then fly! You can control the drone with the Flybrix App via Bluetooth, but you can also purchase a joystick controller if you prefer. You should note, however, that this drone is only intended for indoor use. Check out some other options below if you want to take things outdoors.
The cool thing about Flybrix is that if you crash and your chassis breaks, you can simply put the Lego pieces back together! As it is also compatible with other Lego bricks, there are so many possibilities for experimentation. Kids can create their own designs, test them, then make improvements using trial and error. This kind of problem solving is an essential component in lots of STEM fields, so we think Flybrix is a great DIY drone kit for developing these skills. It can also help kids understand the basics of geometry, aerodynamics and electrical engineering.
Airblock is DIY drone kit from the robotics company Makeblock, targeted at a younger audience of 8 and up. It has a similar focus on experimentation, with modular foam parts that attach together with magnets to form lots of different designs. The two main modes are the hexacopter drone or hovercraft type vehicle, but you can also experiment with your own designs. The idea being that the foam parts help to prevent too much damage in the event of a crash! Although, if you do happen to break any parts, you can purchase spares from the Makeblock website. There are a couple of ways to control your drone with the Makeblock App. Firstly, you can fly the drone manually with the joystick styled controls on a smart device. The second option is through programming flight paths with the graphical drag-and-drop interface, which involves moving graphical blocks of code into your desired sequence. It’s a great way to introduce beginners to coding basics, but lacks much room for learning the more advanced concepts. If this is of interest to you, check out the Codrone below.
The Robolink Codrone Pro is a drone with a focus on the coding aspect, rather than the building. That said, the quad drone itself comes fully built, although the controller needs some putting together. This requires you to assemble 2 joysticks, a battery pack, wiring, a Bluetooth module and the ‘smart inventor board’ – an Arduino compatible circuit board, which are all attached to a frame. Don’t worry though, Robolink provide substantial online resources to guide you through this process in the form of a written guide and a YouTube channel. This benefit of this step being that kids can develop some basic understanding of electrical components.
After the controller is fully built it’s time to program your drone! Again, this is taught through a combination of online tutorials in both video and written format. It starts with basics, such as setting up your software, pairing and learning simple flight commands. However, once you have this down you can move onto the intermediate lessons, then 5 exciting missions. Our favorite being the multi player battle mission where kids have to upload the code for the game and then engage in a laser tag style battle! The Codrone relies on the Arduino open source ecosystem, which is based on the widely used C/C++ coding languages. So the best part about it is that they are learning the whole time!
As the Codrone is all about experimenting, it’s possible there could be a few accidental collisions. However, you can buy replacement parts from the website if anything does get broken, as well as a FPV camera add on and drive kit to convert it to a vehicle! So it does still have a small ‘build your own drone’ element to it. Another thing we love about Codrone is the community aspect. If you run into problems, there is an active Facebook group where you can look for any answers you couldn’t find on the website.
One of the downsides is the quite short flight time, but again you can buy extra batteries and a multi charger add on. The other potential downside is that it is super light and would be affected quite a lot by wind, so is more suited to indoor flying. Overall, we really love this DIY drone kit and think it is a fantastic learning tool, but if you want to fly outdoors with a lot of range it is perhaps not the right choice.
The Sky Viper E1700 is an intermediate DIY drone kit with a slightly more complex build than the drones listed above. What we like about this particular kit is that it comes with everything you need to build and start flying, unlike some other kits on the market that sometimes don’t include a controller or battery. Assembly is guided through an animated in-app tutorial, which also gives educational pointers on the inner workings of all the drones components. This is great for building an understanding the electrical engineering side of things.You may be wondering, how is this a stunt drone? First off, the E1700 controller comes with pre-installed firmware, which Sky Viper state is based off what is commonly used in racing drones. This software enables the E1700 to do 8 pre-programmed stunts by just hitting one button! Check it out in the video below. Flight assist features like auto hover help beginners to get the hang of things, but it also has a manual mode for more experienced pilots. The drone can fly at speeds of up to 25 mph and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
The QWinOut QQ differs from the above in that it is marketed as a DIY drone kit for hobbyists, rather than for kids or educational purposes. However, the drone still requires assembly, so it does still serve as a learning tool in this respect. Another aspect of hobbyist kits is that they often feature interchangeable parts, meaning that you can quite easily replace faulty parts or upgrade components. This this kind of tinkering and experimentation can help to develop skills useful in STEM fields.
As we begin to move into hobbyist territory, there is some terminology that begins to crop up that it is useful to understand. The QWinOut QQ is an ‘ARF’ drone set, which stands for almost ready to fly. This means there is some assembly required in order to get to the flight stage. The QQ includes batteries and controllers, which is one of the reasons we chose it over some of the alternatives. To contrast, other types of kit you might see are RTF (ready to fly), which means no additional accessories are needed to begin using the drone. Another is BNF (bind and fly), which means that it does not include a controller.
The kit comes with a 310 mm fiber glass chassis and 6CH 2.4G LCD remote controller, which are pre-assembled. However, the rest of the electrical components need to be put together. These include 4 A2212 1400KV motors, 4 propellers, a 2200 mAh Lithium ion battery, a control board and associated wiring. The downside is that there is no documentation to assist with the build, which is often the case with hobbyist kits. However, there are lots of build your own drone video guides on YouTube that can be used as assistance. Even so, perhaps this kit is more suitable to those with a little prior experience!
The Flame Wheel F450 is a premium DIY drone kit from popular drone makers DJI. The company are certainly more well known for their RTF drone kits rather than ARF – you have most likely heard of the DJI Mavic, but the F450 is still a reliable and durable drone. Want to see how durable? Check out this hilarious video of a DJI worker trying to destroy the frame! The frames are made of a tough PA66+30GF nylon compound, whilst the strong PCB board features an integrated circuit which makes wiring the battery, ESC’s and other accessories easier and tidier. Although, some soldering skills are still required for assembly.
The build is certainly simpler than some of the options out there, with DJI providing a manual to guide you. Furthermore, as this is a popular kit there are also quite a lot of user generated video tutorials available on YouTube, as well as an active online community if you run into any issues. The popularity also means that spare parts are widely available should you need replacements, as well as additional accessories such as FPV cameras.
Overall, this is a high quality drone that should perform well in flight, but it is not without its disadvantages. In order to be flight ready, you will need to purchase additional equipment including a battery, radio, receiver and flight controller. If you are looking at this kit you probably already have some experience with DIY drone kits, so you might already own some of these components. If not, the extras only add to what is already quite an expensive kit. That said, we still really like the F450, but would not recommend it for total beginners. To conclude, we think this is one of the best DIY drone kits for those with some prior experience building drones.