Drones have proven their worth as toys, but are beginning to show how they can serve as fun learning tools that teach the art of engineering and robotics as well. The Flybrix Lego drone is a recent example of this, and it has now been joined by Airblock, a modular kit of foam drone parts that snap together for customized flying machines.
Airblock is the handiwork of Chinese company Makeblock, which specializes in robots that double as learning tools like the Codeybot released earlier this year. It is now taking its expertise to the skies to teach kids how creativity, engineering and programming can combine for high-flying fun.
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The Airblock kits contain a foam body and separate modules for rotors and receiving control commands. These snap together through magnets in any way the user imagines, though the design does favor two specific vehicle types, a hovercraft and a hexacopter drone.
The Hovercraft can hover for eight minutes at a time, at a top speed of 2.5 m (8.2 ft) a second, while the drone has a flight time of six minutes, can reach heights of 10 m (32 ft) and has a top speed of 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) per second. The foam components make it crash-friendly, and safe to use indoors.
Once construction is complete, users can fire up a companion app, which pairs with the vehicle over Bluetooth, to take control of their creations. While this allows for standard piloting controls, it also encourages users to dip into the coding to come up with their own maneuvers.
Drag-and-drop blocks can be used to create commands and configure different propellors to fire at different speeds, in turn having the vehicle perform different stunts, be they drifts or s-curves in the case of the hovercraft, or spirals or circles in the case of the drone.
Makeblock is currently raising funds for Airblock on Kickstarter and has passed its US$100,000 goal with 55 days still to run on the campaign. Early pledges of $89 will have a kit headed your way in February 2017 if everything goes to plan. You can check out the pitch video below.