Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Upon the recommendation of some of our 7th Grade students, I purchased a drone for $40 that was delivered surprisingly on Easter Sunday. The Syma X5C Explorer is the perfect drone for beginners and those prone to rooftop crashing. I was amazed to discover the nearly indestructible design of this little drone. After bouncing it off the pavement a dozen times, the Syma drone operates just as well as its first flight.

Lightweight, inexpensive, and still very precise, the Syma is easy to charge through your computer usb port. The remote control requires 4 AA batteries, and it comes with 4 replacement propellors, which I have not yet needed to use. Bottom line: this product makes drone flight accessible to anyone with $40 and a desire to fly.

With today’s perfect sunny weather and clear blue skies, I took the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) outside with my kids and let them take turns flying. Despite the pollen and gusts of wind, the drone performed very well. As I was flying, I took the craft too far down the street and it was swept up into the wind. I tried to steer it back towards my house, but the wind took the dirigible high above my neighbor’s roof. To avoid a crash landing, I pushed the flying machine higher where it was taken captive by the winds.

The sensational drone was last seen flying at an extremely high altitude eastbound on Pitts Road headed towards the Village. Much like history’s famed aviator and female pioneer Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, the Syma X5C’s current whereabouts are simply unknown. Visibility was lost, but hope is not.

If you see the missing drone, please contact me. 

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Update: Drone Found!

After a quick sprint down the sidewalk of the adjoining neighborhood revealed no sign of the missing drone, I flicked the toggle repeatedly until behold; the green and red lights flickered and the blades spun around with a high-pitched humming noise. The drone suddenly appeared from the roof and sputtered down the side of the large, brick house. It landed in the bushes, just at the tip of my reach. The drone has been recovered, tested, and is ready for its next flight.

Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact


Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

Drones provide a gateway to learning many practical and helpful uses for human-centered problem solving, as well as simple fun and curiosity. Here are a few ideas to consider…

Paint Your House

Advertise your product/company with a flying drone billboard

Ambulance Drone for Medical Emergencies

Submarine Periscope

Save the lives of African babies with HIV testing

Drone Racing is the Sport of the Future

Search for Lost Dogs

Monitor Marine Reserves and Spot Illegal Fishing

Droneport for Africa

A Robot That Flies Like A Bird

Find the Best Waves for Surfing Safely

Avoid Traffic by Flying Yourself to School or Work

Deliver to Ships at Sea

Detect Land Mines

Save People From Drowning

What applications can you share?

Drones in Action

Drones in Action

In August, we purchased a drone. Our team designed a digital “Drone” badge that faculty members could earn in pre-planning. We unleashed the drone in chapel for all students to be introduced to our newest interactive tech device. In September, we crashed the drone. While Upper School students were learning how to make minor repairs to the drone, we purchased an additional drone. In October, Mr. Roth took small groups of students outside to learn how to pilot the drone and discuss related science and ethical issues. In November, I worked with a small, volunteer group of students on e-portfolios and badge design. Part of our exploration included flying the drone. In a November social studies R & D meeting, a small group of teachers flew the drone and imagined ways to implement the technology in their classrooms and connect it to their learning outcomes. In December, we temporarily grounded the drones to make sure we are in compliance with all FAA laws and regulations. We hope to be back in the air very soon.

All 6th grade science students learned how to fly the drone outdoors in small groups which included a series of questions and discussion about the ethical decision making issues related to this technology.

A group of five 8th grade students (who volunteered and are working with me to make eportfolios more relevant for students) earned their drone badge while learning how to use the Go Pro to capture and upload videos from flight to their eportfolios (they also learned about the 6 parts of badge design and have designed their own badge prototypes). I love these kids!

On a later date, I took some of the boys who requested a chance to earn the badge outside for a flight. One of the boys received the same drone for Christmas and has since brought his personal drone to school and is showing other students how to use it at recess.

Mr. Tiffin posted a home, trigonometry lesson (#FSBL style) inspired by our drone flight.Drones in Action

Over Thanksgiving, I brought the drone home to learn a bit more and taught my oldest son how to fly the drone and capture video.

Resources: Tampa Bay Elementary Students Learn With Drones
This article is compelling because the drones beings used by the elementary students are smaller and primarily used indoors compared to the drones we use which are a primarily outdoors and of a professional grade. It involves coding and ipads. Very cool! Easy to implement, safer, and accessible.

Other Interactive Tech: MVPS Middle School students learn coding with robot finches in Digital Media

Legal Compliance: As of December, we have temporarily grounded the drones due to concerns about complying with FAA regulations. Of course, we want to comply with all laws and avoid incurring any hefty fines. I expect we will resolve this soon as we likely qualify as using the drone(s) for “hobby and recreational use.”

ArticleLegal Issues related to use of drones in high school sports (excerpt below)…

FAA rules establish three classifications of UAS operations: 1) Public UAS in which a government entity such as a law enforcement agency, a fire department, a border patrol agency, a disaster relief operation, or a search and rescue organization may obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to use a drone; 2) Civil UAS in which a commercial entity may obtain a Special Airworthiness Certificate (SAC) to use a drone for business purposes; and 3) Model Aircraft in which the use of an UAS is permitted for recreational purposes if certain criteria are satisfied by the operator of a drone. The key issue regarding the use of drones by high school sports teams is whether the use of small UAS fit into the FAA’s Model Aircraft classification.

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Prior Post: Ideas to Follow Up On

Kid-Friendly Drones:
Drones Aren’t Just Toys Anymore
Parrot Homepage

Sumo Drones (no FAA restrictions)

What would you like to see our students do next? What ideas can you share?

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

Today, the Social Studies Research & Design Team met (as did R & D teams from several other disciplines). Teachers were given 3 choices:

  • Pick something that interests you from last session’s brainstorm (related to the 4 guiding priorities)
  • Work on the 9th Grade Humanities pilot (learning outcomes, ideas, etc.)
  • Teach social studies through interactive tech (drone w/camera) and badges

Team members collaborated in small groups and as individuals, sharing out at the end of the session…

  • Humanities: who will teach it? will it just be a combo of lit and history or will it include other disciplines like arts, theater, etc.? idea for teaching through geographical areas, idea for have the mindsets be a stronger, guiding factor throughout the course.
  •  1st Grade – each week a new country featured in a key doc. this week, Burundi – they have NO schools, “hurts my soul” – gives new empathy and informs how I teach
  • 7th & 8th Grade – Assessing a new unit, looking at last year’s exam, revising, “when you don’t get to claim your ‘rights.’
  • Lower School revisions of curriculum maps
  • Lower School – finalizing government assessment & proficiency scales

While it is a busy time of year and few folks want to stay late, I am proud to be part of this team. Also, I am grateful for all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make this session happen. I am grateful for the rough drafts and iterations. I am grateful for the feedback and brainstorming. I am thankful for the minutes and hours spent in preparation, and most of all for the positive attitudes. Thank you!

Unleash the Drone!

Unleash the drone!

A crowd of over 350 students and teachers cheered and watched in awe as the DJI Phantom 3 drone was unleashed on middle school during chapel announcements. The drone is the newest piece of interactive technology to be purchased for student and teacher learning. While many fascinating learning opportunities exist with such tech (students will learn to fly, as well as design new uses and explore ethical decision making in current events), our drone has become a vehicle for introducing another emerging technology: digital badging. Unleash the drone!

As a way to expand the learning measures, Mrs. Wilkes and Mrs. Levinson spent the summer researching, designing, and planning how to launch badging with our faculty. In pre-planning, our teachers earned over 60 badges (the Drone Flying Ace) is only one of many exciting new badges that Mount Vernon faculty can earn. Our IT Director Mikey Canup has been awesome at not only supporting our ideas, but helping us implement them! Even when we crashed the drone outside a few weeks ago (two propellors broke in half), he smiled like a forgiving father.

Unleash the Drone
The DJI Phantom 3 flies overhead at Middle School at chapel during announcements.
Unleash the Drone
The crowd cheers wildly as the newest member of the Middle School community is unleashed – the Drone!
Unleash the Drone
Mr. Townsend is thrilled to receive a physical sticker badge to match his digital “Drone Flying Ace” badge!

Although many of the faculty have already received their earned badges via an electronic file, today we recognized those who earned the Drone Flying Ace badge with a secondary, physical sticker to match the digital badge. The sticker can be posted anywhere (mine are on the clear, plastic case protecting my laptop) to display and share new knowledge and skills you have demonstrated. Other badges include demonstrations such as operating a Clear Touch, presenting at a conference, blogging, designing formative assessments, and others.

Unleash the Drone
Mrs. Wilkes and Mrs. Levinson have done the heavy lifting to introduce badging to our faculty. We are exploring ways to expand the learning measures beyond a single, numerical grade. Will it catch on with students?
Unleash the Drone
Two physical sticker badges affixed to my computer cover that match their digital counterparts (posted on Haiku, personal blogs, and Credly). They fit nicely next to the DC super heroes – that’s what our team is – a legion of super heroes with incredible powers!

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 2.15.19 PMFeatured on Mount Vernon’s News Site!