Yes, it is possible to fly a bunch of Legos through the air. Are Legos the most optimal, aerodynamic material? Definitely not. But they sure are fun — and an awesome learning tool.
San Francisco startup Flybrix developed a kit consisting of Legos, a preprogrammed board, propellers and motors for kids and kids-at-heart to build their own drones. The kits start at $189.
It’s intended to be a tool to teach its users a variety of skills, from the principles of flight to computer science to the basics of electrical engineering. It’s an awesome tool for the classroom, for kids and their parents, or just for any drone user looking for a fun weekend project.
One of my favorite things about this kit is literally everything you need comes in the box. No soldering or extra tools required — adding a level of accessibility that I appreciate. The box includes a variety of Legos, motors, batteries, the receiver and for an additional fee, an RC transmitter (otherwise the drone can be controlled via smartphone). The initial instruction guide suggests you build a quadcopter, but the kit actually has enough parts to build a hexacopter or octocopter.
According to Flybrix, the whole thing takes 15 minutes to assemble — and they couldn’t be more accurate. It took be exactly 14:10 to get it from pile of bricks to a drone.
But it’s not over in 15 minutes. With additional motors and bricks, the drone can continuously be rebuilt in different designs. There’s also an app that teaches computer science basics, and a Chrome extension also allows pilots to adjust settings and motor tune.
Not to mention, you will crash — which means you will definitely rebuild it over time. For advanced engineers, the Lego kit is a starting platform for serious development. Flybrix’s brain is an Arduino-compatible, 96Mhz ARM® Cortex-M4 processor that includes a barometer, a magnetometer, several indicator LEDs, ADC converters, SD card slot, bluetooth, and capabilities to add Wi-Fi and GPS modules, and its code is open-source.
The instructions were easy to follow, as evidenced by being able to build it in less than 15 minutes. There’s a good balance of things the user needs to learn and do, vs. what’s done for you. Builders will learn principles of flight — such as the importance of alternating counterclockwise and clockwise propellers to generate lift.
The nice thing about Legos as a base material is that when the drone inevitably crashes (more on this later), it is easy and quick to rebuild. There likely is no reason for tape or glue to hold this drone together, since the Legos can quickly be put back together. Speaking of crashing and needing to put the drone back together…
The most difficult part of Flybrix was actually flying. This is something the company recognizes and points out itself, but it is worth noting that the drone isn’t really intended to fly as its main purpose. Lego bricks aren’t exactly the optimally aerodynamic material. I’ve had years of drone flying experience and had a difficult time maneuvering this drone in the air for any significant amount of time. If you’re looking for something to build AND have fun flying with, this probably isn’t for you.
Flybrix is a great intro to building drones. They are a great supplement to education about flight, engineering and more. The drones certainly could be used in classrooms as a broader unit on drones.
In fact, Flybrix says many of its customers are schools that will have 2-4 students working on one kit together, and often the kits will make up a few days worth of lesson plans, including a lesson on building it, a lesson on motors, and a lesson on flight.
But, I would definitely recommend buying an additional drone to actually fly — good luck successfully flying this one in the air.
For those of you (like me) who are constantly looking for new and fun ways to learn about drones (that also provide that “I did it” feeling of joy) then Flybrix certainly does that. Just don’t bank on flying it.
Happy building, and happy learning!