Best Programmable Drones 1 1

Best Programmable Drones 2023

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.


As an experienced drone pilot and computer scientist, I created this blog to highlight the best programmable drones of 2023.

With a degree in computer science and years of experience commercial piloting drones, I’ve been able to transform my passion for UAVs into a career.

Now I want to help others discover the intersection of drones and programming that has brought me so much fulfillment.

In the following guide, I’ll tap into my technical knowledge to explain the programming functionality of each drone, making recommendations tailored for everyone from complete beginners looking for their first coding drone to expert pilots seeking advanced STEM experience.

kids using programmable drones

My goal is to elucidate both the tech specs and the human aspect of why programmable drones can be such powerful educational tools.

Yes, I’ll cover flight times, sensors, and safety features important for operation.

But I’ll also share how each drone can open up a world of hands-on learning about coding, engineering principles, math, and more. My hope is that readers discover new and exciting ways to go beyond just flying drones to truly understanding how to program and customize your own autonomous aerial missions.

Join me on this journey to find the best programmable drone to unlock new coding skills, confidence, and creativity in programmers both young and old!

father and son programming a drone together

CoDrone Mini | Best Programmable Drone

I highly recommend the CoDrone Mini as the best programmable drone for teaching kids to code.

Its kid-friendly design, intuitive coding options, and complete educational package make it a fantastic tool for hands-on STEM learning.

Having tested drones across age groups, the Mini hits the sweet spot for younger coders aged 8 and up.

drone programmed with python

Its palm-sized durability withstands those first trial-and-error flights, while still providing stable performance. The Mini weighs only 24 grams, so it won’t intimidate kids just learning to pilot drones.

And the controls are adapted for little hands to easily operate the Mini.

But beyond just flying, it’s the Mini’s coding capabilities that make it shine as a STEM tool.

Right away, kids can use the visual Blockly language to program fun aerial routes, dances, and games. As they advance, the Mini also supports coding in Python for tackling more complex logic and algorithms.

roblink blocksy drone programming coding language 1

I especially appreciate the complete ecosystem CoDrone offers – the Mini comes with online lessons, curriculum guides, and even full educator packages.

I’m thrilled by the wide range of coding lessons and tutorials that CoDrone offers to teach programming skills using their drones. The lessons are hosted on an easy-to-use platform called Basecamp, with options tailored for students of all ages – so it’s great for both beginners and more advanced coders.

DRONE PROGRAMMING LESSONS

One thing I love is that the lessons cover both visual block coding and text-based coding in Python.

For younger students just starting out, the drag-and-drop Blockly language provides an intuitive way to grasp basics like takeoff, landing, and controlling drone movement. They can really see their code come to life, which builds confidence.

Then for older students, the Python lessons allow them to take the next step into textual programming.

The curriculum covers key drone programming and coding concepts like:

  • Variables
  • Loops
  • Functions
  • Conditionals
  • Sensor data

It’s great real-world experience in computational thinking.

I also appreciate that CoDrone offers dedicated educator resources like standards-aligned lessons plans across subjects and grade levels.

I can easily integrate their drones into my coding curriculum. And they provide training courses so I can gain skills and confidence in facilitating drone coding in the classroom.

With 30-45 minutes lessons that students can complete at their own pace, CoDrone provides countless engaging hours of hands-on Python coding experience.

co drone programmable model versions

I highly recommend their instructional offerings for any coding educator or parent looking to level up drone programming skills!

This enables schools to seamlessly integrate the drones into coding and robotics courses. The lesson plans introduce programming concepts like functions, variables, and control flow in an engaging way.

And kids love seeing their code take flight!

Another benefit of the Mini is its approx. 4-5 minute battery life. This provides enough flight time for students to run short programs, while avoiding downtime spent recharging.

The battery itself recharges in about 45 minutes.

codrone programmable drone 1

The controller has a range of 60-80 meters, giving ample space to code navigation routes.

For an engaging, confidence-building introduction to programming drones and core coding concepts, the CoDrone Mini is my top recommendation for budding coders aged 8 to 10 and beyond.

Its blend of ease-of-use, durability, programmability, and educational support can’t be beat. I’ve seen firsthand how the Mini makes programming come alive for kids.

This is a programmable educational drone that is affordable and suitable for beginners.

In summary, with its kid-friendly design, intuitive coding options, and complete educational package, the CoDrone Mini is my top recommendation as the best introductory programmable drone for young students aged 8-10. This affordable, durable drone makes learning to code engaging and rewarding through a progressive curriculum covering visual block coding to advanced Python.

For any educator or parent seeking the ideal first coding drone, the CoDrone Mini is a fantastic choice that brings programming to life for budding coders.

DJI Tello EDU | Best Advanced Programmable Drone

DJI Tello EDU
$199.00
Pros:
  • Supports multiple coding languages like Python, Scratch, and C++
  • Powerful DJI SDK unlocks advanced functionality
  • Durable and smooth performance for new pilots
  • Extensive educational resources and curriculum
  • Broad compatibility empowers coders at any skill level
Amazon Link
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 04:05 am GMT

As an experienced drone pilot and programmer, I highly recommend the DJI Tello EDU as one of best programmable drone for 2023 based on my first-hand experience using it for commercial drone projects and educational programs.

Having flown many models over the years, the Tello EDU stands out for its perfect blend of ease of use, versatility, and advanced programming capabilities.

I’ve used it to teach coding and robotics to students of all ages, and they absolutely love flying their own programmed missions with it.

DJI tello edu

One of the key advantages of the EDU model is the inclusion of DJI’s powerful SDK 2.0 software development kit, which unlocks much more complex programming functionality compared to the standard Tello.

I’ve used the advanced SDK features for everything from autonomous visual navigation to cooperative swarming flights.

During a recent STEM camp I ran, I was amazed at how quickly the kids learned to program the Tello EDU drones using Scratch.

Within just a few hours, they went from flying basic routes to racing the drones through complex obstacle courses of their own design. Seeing their creativity come to life through coding was incredibly rewarding.

The Tello EDU has also proven itself as an incredibly durable drone perfect for less experienced pilots. Its propeller guards and smooth stable flight make it far more forgiving than racing drones.

The DJI Tello EDU’s versatility as a programmable drone stems from its ability to be coded using a wide range of programming languages and frameworks.

Programming languages supported:

Python Coding Logo

Python

This high-level language is one of the most popular options for controlling the Tello EDU. Python provides a great balance of readability, simplicity, and power that appeals to drone coders of all skill levels. I’ve used Python extensively with the Tello EDU drones to program autonomous navigation, video streaming, and swarming functions.

scratch Coding Logo

Scratch

Scratch’s drag-and-drop block coding makes it perfect for introducing young students to programming drones. During summer camps, I’ve seen kids with no prior experience have an absolute blast coding the Tello EDU with Scratch to perform aerial stunts, races, and more. It provides a gentle on-ramp to coding fundamentals.

c

C++

For advanced users, the Tello EDU SDK supports development in C++. This opens the door to leveraging libraries like OpenCV to integrate computer vision and machine learning. I’ve built apps that can track objects and identify gestures using the Tello EDU’s camera and C++.

swift logo

Swift

Apple fans can even code apps to control the Tello EDU using Swift and Xcode on iOS devices. This allows for portable tools to program the drone via iPad or iPhone. Swift makes it easy to build full-featured custom interfaces for the EDU drones.

The wide range of supported languages is what makes the Tello EDU such an adaptable coding and programmable robotics tool.

DJI tello edu flying drone programming

Whether I’m running a kids workshop or developing an advanced autonomous navigation system, the Tello EDU drone never limits my programming options.

This broad compatibility empowers coders at every skill level.

For educators or parents looking to introduce programming in an engaging, hands-on way, the Tello EDU is the perfect programmable drone. And as an experienced pilot, I can vouch that it remains useful even for commercial applications due to its reliability, sensors, and SDK capabilities. Overall, it’s the stand-out choice for 2023.

With its versatile programming options, educational support, and proven performance, I highly recommend the DJI Tello EDU as one of the best programmable drones for coders in 2023. This is an adaptable coding drone suitable for beginners to experts.

DJI Tello | Cheapest Programmable Drone

Ryze Tech Tello - Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids Beginners 5MP Camera HD720 Video 13min Flight Time Education Scratch Programming Toy Selfies, powered by DJI, White
$119.95
Pros:
  • Lower cost entry point
  • Stable flight performance for new pilots
  • Basics of coding drones with DJI SDK
  • Scratch and Python support for intro lessons
  • Foundational skills to upgrade later to EDU
Amazon Link
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 04:15 am GMT

I often get asked about the differences between the standard DJI Tello and the Tello EDU drones. While the Tello EDU is more advanced, I believe the Tello is still an excellent budget-friendly option for beginners looking to learn programming with drones.

The Tello provides a solid foundation for coding drones at a lower price point. It delivers stable flight and basic programmability using DJI’s SDK with Scratch and Python.

I’ve used the Tello successfully to teach introductory coding to students as young as 10.

While it lacks some of the EDU’s advanced features, it nails the basics for an affordable starter drone.

DJIS TELLO DRONE FOR CODING

Now, the Tello EDU does offer greater capabilities – mainly the upgraded DJI SDK 2.0 that enables more complex programming.

The EDU also has programmable Mission Pads and additional educational tools tailored for the classroom. So if you require those advanced features, the EDU may be worth the extra cost.

However, for users just looking to dip their toes into drone programming, the standard Tello provides an excellent entry point. You can learn core concepts like flying with code, automation, and debugging.

And the skills you gain with the Tello will provide a foundation to eventually move up to the EDU if desired.

In conclusion, while the Tello EDU is more versatile, don’t count out the standard Tello – it’s still a fantastic programmable drone for beginners. If your focus is budget-friendly basic coding skills, I highly recommend starting with the standard DJI Tello.

Then you can always upgrade to the EDU later as your experience grows.

With its affordable price and solid basic programming features, I recommend the DJI Tello as an excellent starter coding drone for beginners before moving up to the EDU. This is a great budget-friendly option for learning core drone programming skills.

Parrot Mambo Fly | Visual Programmable Drone

Parrot Mambo Fly

Parrot Mambo Fly drone

Visual Language Programmable Drone

  • Stable and easy to fly for beginners
    Visual block coding with Tynker
    Guided coding lessons for kids
    Approx. 9 min flight time
    Options to progress to Python
    Fun way to introduce drone coding

The Parrot Mambo Fly is an ideal starter drone for beginners looking to learn the basics of piloting and programming. As an educator, I often recommend the Mambo for its ease-of-use, stability, and coding options tailored for younger students.

Right out of the box, the Mambo’s intuitive controls and prop guards make those first flights a breeze.

The auto-stabilization keeps the quadcopter steady as students learn to maneuver using the FlyPad remote or mobile app.

Four rotors provide ample lift for the light Mambo frame, giving about 9 minutes of airtime.

parrot mambo drone

But one of the Mambo’s best features is its compatibility with Tynker’s visual programming system.

The block-based coding allows kids as young as 7 to easily program the Mambo for automated missions and choreographed routines. Tynker’s guided lessons make picking up the basics of programming drones an engaging, game-like experience.

I often use the Mambo in my summer camps to introduce drone coding to younger students. Seeing their faces light up when the Mambo executes their Tynker scripts is so rewarding!

parrot mambo flying drone

And for those ready to advance, the Mambo can also be programmed in Python and other text-based languages.

So for educators or parents seeking a coding-capable quadcopter for beginners, the Mambo hits all the marks. Its stability keeps new pilots confident, while Tynker opens up programming skills in an intuitive way.

I highly recommend the Mambo as a fun first step into the world of drones!

Mambo Flying Drone

With its ease of use, stability, and intuitive coding options through Tynker, I recommend the Parrot Mambo Fly as an excellent introductory programming drone for beginners as young as 7. This is a great first coding quadcopter for starting out in the world of drones.

drone dojo raspberry pi kit

DIY Drone Coding Kit

drone coding kit

Drone Programming Raspberry Pi Kit

  • Build a highly customizable programmable drone
    Advanced capabilities with Raspberry Pi and Pixhawk
    Clear video assembly guide included
    Code using Python for limitless options

The Drone Dojo Raspberry Pi kit offers tremendous value to tech enthusiasts seeking to build and program their own fully customizable UAV.

At just $899, it provides all the hardware needed to create a high-performance drone with advanced functionality.

The included Raspberry Pi mini computer and Pixhawk flight controller enable programming capabilities that can match or exceed drones costing thousands more.

For experienced hobbyists, the kit represents an extremely affordable way to unlock the possibilities of DIY drones. The 21-part video guide covers the entire assembly process with clear instructions.

Once built, the skies the limit on what you can program your drone to do using Python, from computer vision to coordinated swarming flights.

If customization and hands-on learning are your goals, this kit can’t be beat.

However, it is probably not the ideal choice for classrooms or younger students. To fully harness its potential, the kit does require a significant time investment, technical skillset, and coding proficiency.

Educators should consider opting for a pre-built programmable drone that is ready to fly out of the box and supports simple block coding.

raspberry pie drone programming kit

While the Drone Dojo kit won’t be manageable for all ages, it remains a top-tier option for adults and learners with background in electronics and programming.

In summary, while not suited for all audiences, the kit excels in enabling hobbyists to affordably build and program drones boasting capabilities rivaling top-tier commercial models. For the right DIY-minded user, it represents an unparalleled mix of customization, education, and enjoyment.

Raspberry Pi Kit

For experienced hobbyists seeking full customization, I highly recommend the Drone Dojo Raspberry Pi kit as an extremely affordable DIY build-your-own advanced programmable drone. This is an unbeatable option for hands-on learning and creativity through drone building and coding.

teaching holding a class on programming a dji drone

Drones Bring Programming to Life

As an educator, I’m always looking for hands-on ways to engage my students in coding, engineering, and other STEM subjects. Over the years, I’ve found that programmable drones are an absolute game-changer in the classroom!

The practical, real-world applications get kids excited about learning concepts that might otherwise seem boring on paper.

In my experience, drones provide the perfect bridge between theory and practice. For example, when I teach programming, I have students code flight patterns onscreen first.

But there’s nothing like seeing their code execute those maneuvers in real-time on a drone!

The look of accomplishment on those faces is priceless.

Hands-On Engineering Learning

I also love having students assemble drones from kits. They gain such valuable hands-on experience with engineering principles, electronics, and design thinking.

And the drones they build really become their own creations that they can customize and program.

Bringing Math and Science Concepts to Life

When it comes to math and science, drones open up a whole new world of active experimentation. My students have used them to collect real-time environmental data, test physics concepts like acceleration, and bring abstract geometric principles to life.

They make complex STEM topics tangible and engaging.

Developing Communication and Collaboration Skills

Additionally, working with drones fosters critical communication, collaboration, and planning skills. I have my students team up for roles like mission planning, piloting, spotting, and data analysis.

The drones really require cooperation and coordination to fly safely and effectively.

An Invaluable Teaching Tool

If you’re an educator thinking about bringing drones into your classroom, I highly recommend it! With the right curriculum resources for your grade level, they can enrich just about any subject.

It does take preparation, but it’s well worth it when you see that spark of curiosity and confidence in your students.

boy programming a drone by himself

Competitive Drone Programming

In drone programming competitions, participants are tasked with programming drones to complete specific tasks or missions.

These tasks can range from navigating through an obstacle course to performing autonomous operations.

For instance, the Aerial Drone Competition by the REC Foundation involves students programming drones to operate entirely autonomously, with teams competing to score as many points as possible.

Drone Hackathons

Drone hackathons are events where participants, often software developers, designers, and hackers, come together to create innovative solutions using drones.

For example, the Drone Hackathon organized by the Global Drone News encourages participants to understand the capabilities of drones and harness their talent in countering drones.

Best Programmable Drones in 2023 Conclusion

As we’ve explored, programmable drones open up exciting new worlds of hands-on STEM learning. Whether you’re an educator seeking to engage students, a parent looking to teach coding, or a hobbyist desiring full customization, there are excellent drone options to match your needs and experience level.

For beginners, the CoDrone Mini and Parrot Mambo Fly provide a fun, confidence-building introduction to piloting and basic programming. As skills progress, intermediate coders can unlock more capabilities with the DJI Tello or Tello EDU.

And for DIY enthusiasts, advanced kits like the Drone Dojo offer limitless potential.

Whichever model you choose, programming drones brings theory to life through real-world applications. Students gain practical skills in coding, math, robotics, and beyond while honing critical thinking and teamwork. Drones open minds, empower innovators, and let imagination take flight.

I hope this guide has illuminated some of the best programmable drone available in 2023 and how they can elevate STEM education.

Let your creativity soar by picking the right drone to start your programming journey today!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *