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Parrot drones to teach coding

By June 29, 2015March 8th, 20174 Comments

I love gadgets. It has to be said. For me they represent the cutting edge of humanity and where we can go as a human race. When I used to watch Star Trek: Next Generation, as a teenager I used to say ‘never in my lifetime’ when I used to see Geordi La Forge holding a PADD in the engine room. And now look at us. iPads and other tablets are everywhere, as commonplace as a wrist watch, and even those are amazing these days too.

I’m lucky to have a number of programmable gadgets. I have a number of Sphero’s, an Ollie, an Ozobot (which I really should have blogged about by now which are awesome for KS1 Computing) and now a Parrot Rolling Spider mini-drone.

As someone who has always loved technology I have always dabbled with programming. My earliest programming memories were those on my Spectrum.

10 PRINT “I am Mark”

20 GOTO 10

You know the score…

I liked the immediacy of the repetition but I never really went in to it in much detail. Speaking honestly and frankly, I found it quite boring. I liked the problem solving of debugging things when they didn’t work but at that age my resilience wasn’t quite what it is these days.

This is why I love the programmable bots we have access to these days. Maybe if I’d had a BigTrak things might’ve been a bit different when I was younger, but I didn’t. These programmable robots are simply amazing. My latest purchase is the Rolling Spider:



“Grrrrr” said the Spider

This is an amazing piece of engineering. I’m not going to sit here and sell it to you although I am quite the smitten geek.


If we’re talking suitable age bracket – they say for ages 14 and above. I would suggest that with suitable supervision, you could use these with students at KS3 or perhaps one Drone with students in Year 5 or 6. You must do your risk assessment and act accordingly though!


  • It flies to stupid heights – note, don’t go too high or it will lose connectivity and you could be left like me, praying that it would work its own way back down.
  • It’s programmable in Apps such as Tickle.
  • The Tickle app is so simple to use. If you’ve used Scratch before then you will be well away.


  • It is massively engaging. Just playing with it on the local field to learn how to use it had gaggles of local kids coming along with my own to join in and learn about it.

It has a built in camera which you can use to take aerial photos:


{ "product_id": "0900", "media_date": "2015-06-28T203100+0000" }

Aerial photograph taken with the Rolling Spider


  • They’re not giving it away. It was £68.68 when I bought it last week although it’s gone up to £76 now.
  • The blades spin around at a tremendous speed. Keep your fingers away.
  • You will crash it. Highly recommend keeping the Rolling Spider wheels on it to protect the robot.
  • Use it outside if you can and if you’re going to take it up high, then make sure it isn’t windy. The slightest breeze can make you slightly nervous.
  • The biggest downer is the battery life. A full charge will give you twenty minutes air-time, if you’re lucky. And if you are doing a few tricks like flips and the like, it’ll last even less time. I’m already looking at purchasing some more batteries for it to keep it going. I have spied a four-way charger that can do four batteries at a time. One spare battery will set you back £13.


If you’re looking for a highly engaging, relevant, fun and quick way to hook your students in to Computing in a visual way, then these devices are fantastic. They aren’t cheap, but if you compare it to a Bebot which will set you back £59.54 from TTS, it makes it, in my opinion, quite a compelling purchase. If you compare it to a Sphero or Ollie (which I absolutely love as many of you who know me will know) then again, it’s quite compelling. Perhaps a few Spheros and a Drone for more advanced programming for your more enthusiastic coders would be a way forward? That’s your decision. In the meantime, I’m off out flying again as soon as it’s light again!



Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.