- Are Kids Allowed to Fly Drones?
- Do I need to Register a Drone for my Child?
- General Tips for Children Flying Drones
- Drones for Children: Some Simple Safety Precautions
- Pre-Flight Preparations
- Where Kids can Fly Drones
- Drones for Kids: The Dos and Don’ts
- Five Best Drones For Children
- Five Best Drones for Kids Over 13
- Great Drones for Kids You´ll also Love
- Kid Drones and The Job of the Future
I don’t know about you, but as an adult I’m pretty jealous of modern kids. I wasn’t really into physical toys that much when I was a youngster.
Instead my time was spent on the computer and PlayStations one and two. I basically found most physical toys a little lame.
My dad’s friend was into remote controlled helicopters using internal combustion engines, but of course I was told it was too hard and too expensive for kids.
These days kids toys are almost all great. Remote control toys in particular are awesome. From walking robots to sophisticated flying machines.
Having only started with electric helicopters as an adult, you can imagine my slight irritation at seeing plenty of talented kids go pro. It turns out that despite some of these “toys” being rather expensive, children take to them just fine. Go figure.
It also goes to show that it’s worth getting your kids into flying drones from a young age. Not only is it an employable skill, it will get their butts off the couch and provide an activity you can share with each other.
I put together a guide on what you need to consider when giving your child a drone, and compiled a list of the Best Drones for Kids 2018 .
Are Kids Allowed to Fly Drones?
The broad answer is yes, of course they are. The exact rules of whether younger people can fly a drone depends a lot on where in the world you live. In the USA all drones over 0.55 pounds have to be registered.
That might not sound like much, but most of the drones you’d want to start younger people on are under that weight. So there’s no age restriction and no need to register.
If you have a drone that’s over 0.55 pounds then the person registering the drone has to be older than 13 to do so. The registered owner should be the one flying the drone and may be asked to present proof of registration at any time by an official. That being said, registration is not pilot certification. Which is a separate matter and only applies to people who want to fly their drones for commercial purposes.
So if your child is younger than 13 you’ll have to register it for them and preferably supervise their flying when it’s a drone large enough for registration. Smaller drones are really seen as nothing more than toys, so they can fly them without any issue.
As a parent or responsible adult you’ll also have to use your discretion when deciding if a particular young person is mature enough and responsible enough to fly drones for children.
Do I need to Register a Drone for my Child?
As I mentioned above, if the drone is over 0.55lbs in weight and you’re in the US, you’ll have to register it. Only US citizens and permanent residents can register a drone with the FAA . It costs $5 to register at the moment. To pay you’ll need a debit or credit card. A physical address where you paperwork an be sent is also essential. Registration can be done online here.
General Tips for Children Flying Drones
The last thing you should do is be hands-off with a beginning drone pilot. While most kids these days are already used to using gamepads to control digital characters and vehicles, that’s only a partial leg up coming into manual flight.
In fact, video games might be a good place to start. There are plenty of drone flight simulators these days. There are even a few decent ones for smartphone. So perhaps even before buying a drone, why not let the little guy or gal put in some hours on a sim and judge both how interested they are and how well they get the mental part of drone flight.
Give them goals such as hovering, nose-in flight and other basic maneuvers to achieve on the sim. Once you’re happy that they’ve got the idea then you can move on to flying something real.
Kids these days love YouTube and it’s become a major learning resource. So another tip is to share some great drone tutorials. Someone, somewhere has made a series of videos that will click with the young person in question.
What’s really important is that you have “the talk” with the prospective pilot. The litany of safety issues that come with being a drone pilot. It’s not exactly the definition of “fun”, but just like many of the best hobbies, flying a drone comes with responsibilities.
Drones for Children: Some Simple Safety Precautions
Although the chances that a small toy-grade drone is going to hurt anyone in a serious way is small, it’s good to take and teach safety precautions from the start so that it becomes a habit instilled all the way until the day your young pilot decides to fly something big and serious.
Although it might sound a little weird, you should probably buy some safety glasses for a child pilot from a hardware store or somewhere similar. In my experience new pilots can easily get overwhelmed or confused. For some reason this can manifest as flying the drone towards you own head. Even a nano drone can injure your eyes, so just get the safety glasses. Take it from a guy who crashed a rather large model helicopter into himself.
Be careful in your assessment of how strong the wind is when you fly outside. Don’t fly near bodies of water like a pool. Don’t fly higher than is legal or recommended for your drone.
You should also be sure to let your kids know about the dangers of lithium batteries. Not to puncture them, set them near heat or let them fall in water. Read up on the ways that lithium batteries can go wrong and make sure they know it! Lithium battery injuries can be severe and in some cases burn down houses or cause fatalities. Don’t take any chances here.
The most important pre-flight preparation begins before you even switch the drone on for the first time. Every pilot should be intimately familiar with the specifications of their craft. That implies reading the manual from cover to cover. They should know the range of the radio control, how high and fast the craft can go, how much it weighs and so on.
All of the controls and functions should be gone over. As the adult you should also be aware of all these factors. Which means going through everything with the child and making sure they comprehend everything. Don’t just skip over stuff they don’t get right away. Stop and break it down until they do understand it well enough.
Drones for children are usually pretty easy to get started with, so the manual is usually pretty thin.
Where Kids can Fly Drones
It’s not that hard to figure out where not to let kids fly with a drone. Always check your local laws for specifics, but in general you can’t fly within a certain distance of national infrastructure. These can include airports, army bases and power stations.
Where should you fly kid drones? If we’re talking about nano-drones, which I often recommend for raw beginners to learn flight, then you can actually start indoors. A nano drone can’t really damage much more than itself if it crashes into something.
These can also be good for flying in the backyard. That is, if you don’t have dogs around to munch on the little buzzing menace.
Leaving the confines of your own home, public parks might be a good idea unless drones are specifically banned. There are also plenty of clubs for model aircraft pilots. For a usually small membership fee you can go flying on their private airfields, which provides plenty of space for junior to spread their wings.
You might also have some luck asking the school they attend whether there are times their sports fields might be available. Perhaps start a drone club at the school or join one if there already is one. Hey, you’re paying their ridiculous fees, aren’t you?
Drones for Kids: The Dos and Don’ts
There can never be a guide that will prepare you for every eventuality, but there are some common dos and don’ts related to younger drone pilots and the adults trying to get them into the hobby. Here are some things you definitely should do:
- Do make use of a simulator before flying a real drone
- Do supervise young pilots at all times.
- Do test their understanding of the drone’s operation
- Do make sure they understand the rules and regulations of drone flight in their part of the world.
There are of course just as many don’ts to consider:
- Don’t start younger pilots off on big expensive drones, get something you are comfortable trashing
- Don’t let them fly without supervision
- Don’t let them fly in places that you aren’t very sure are safe in general
- Don’t let them fly around pets, especially dogs.
These lists could be endless of course, feel free to add your own tips in the comments.
Five Best Drones For Children
Most drone makers don’t recommend drones for kids under the age of 13 or 14. After all, there’s quite a lot that can happen in terms of damage and injury. However, these are only suggestions. As a parent or guardian you should use your own discretion to decide whether a particular individual child is ready for this hobby. If a person younger than 13 has the maturity, coordination and disposition to be a good pilot, then let them!
The following five drones for kids are ones that I think will make for good flyers when it comes to younger pilots who are still learning the basics.
In general I have focused on smaller, cheaper drones that won’t make your wallet cry as they are inevitably smashed during the learning process. I also don’t really care too much for cameras or FPV in this section, because this is mostly about learning to fly and having fun.
The Hubsan Nano is one of the stalwart nano-drones and has been around for what seems like ages. It’s very affordable. So much so that you can afford to buy a handful of these and not worry to much if one gets trashed. If you do take good care of yours and don’t crash it too much it will last you years. My older model nano has been going for about four years now with only a single battery replacement needed. Even that was super easy. The battery is just stuck onto the board (which doubles as the frame) with double-sided tape. I just pulled off and unplugged the old battery, before replacing it with the new one. Which already has a new piece of tape pre-fitted.
This little drone is a pure little manual quad. It performs very nicely indoors and I’ve had great success flying it around outside when there’s no breeze. It’s a tight little performer that keeps you on your toes. There’s no autonomy apart from the six-axis gyro that every drone has at a minimum.
It looks like a little hotrod, comes in several very nice, bright colours and has a decent five minute flight time. You can charge it off any USB port and the little transmitter is shared among several nano drones, but is perfectly fine. In fact, it might even be better for smaller hands.
If you’re looking for a fun little drone for kids to learn the basics of flight, there’s hardly one I can recommend more.
One downside is the lack of an easily swappable battery, but a USB power bank will let you charge up on the go with easy. This is a pure, no frills little monster that anyone with a pulse will appreciate.
You might notice that the controller on this Eachine Mini is identical from the outside to the Hubsan Nano. Lots of nano quadcopters seem to use this particular design and these controller actually feel pretty good despite their cheapness. That being said, they are not interchangeable and the guts differ from model to model.
The Mini is a little more expensive than the Hubsan, but then again it has several features that make it more appealing in some ways.
First of all, it’s designed to look like a race car or some other futuristic vehicle with a cockpit. Undoubtedly plenty of youngsters are going to find that more appealing.
Apart from the looks, the integrated prop guards are a great boon for younger pilots. While this might be ever so slightly more expensive, those guard mean the Mini can take more of a beating.
The Mini has a headless mode function, where the drone moves relative to where the controller is and not where its nose is pointing. That’s a good beginner feature, but of course every pilot should master relative orientation and things like nose-in hovering eventually. Using the same technology, it also has a return button that will make the drone fly (blindly) back towards the controller. A good panic button for new pilots, but again not to be used as crutch.
Like most drones in this size class the Mini has a five minute flight time at most and takes about 30 minutes to charge if you use a USB port with enough power. All in all its a decent technical upgrade over the Hubsan and the prop guards make up for the replacement cost you won’t be paying quite as soon. I still have a soft spot for the Hubsan, but this is a great choice if you are looking for a drone for kids.
The Syma is significantly bigger than the two nano drones I talked about above, but it’s still not exactly huge. At about 14 inches to a side it’s just about small enough to do a little bit of indoor flying, but should really be used outside in the garden.
Syma describes the X5C as “wind resistant”, but I suspect more than a light breeze is going to be a challenge.
Compared to the nanos this is a decent intermediate drone. I will say that it looks rather boring and so might not appeal to every youngster. It does have a longer flight time than the nano drones by about two minutes, for a total of seven minutes in the air. Unfortunately this pushed the battery charge time to 100 minutes, but at least the battery can be swapped out for extras.
The camera isn’t going to win any awards. It also has no smartphone app or any sort of live feed. You’ll have to enjoy the video later after downloading it. Still, it’s a nice addition at this price point.
The transmitter is quite sizable and may be too big for some youngsters. It’s pretty much what you’d expect when it comes to model aircraft and larger drones in general. It has a small LCD display to let you know what the various statuses are, controls for the camera, a speed mode switch and a button for the flip maneuver.
This drone also comes with prop guards in the box, which is always a huge plus point for beginners. Given the price, this seems like the logical step up from a nano drone like the two we saw above. This is a good drone for children, that you might appreciate yourself.
The Holy Stone range of drones may have a weird name, but it’s actually a pretty respectable brand of affordable drones. This HS190 is marketed specifically as a “drone for kids”, but even as a grumpy old adult I can appreciate the kickass design of this funky nano drone.
Not only does the chunky red and black body and remote look great, it folds! This little guy folds into an absolutely tiny form, which fits inside a recess nestled between the controls of the transmitter. So this is a truly pocketable drone.
While I think that’s brilliant, convenience is not the main reason I’d recommend this drone for the younger crowd. What really makes it a good choice is how easy it is to fly.
Holy Stone have put a lot of effort into adding features to this drone for beginners. You can put one thing on auto while learning to do something else. As a case in point, this drone comes with an altitude sensor. Which means it can perform an altitude hold. So a new pilot won’t have to worry about keeping the drone at the same height. They can concentrate on learning pitch, roll and yaw and leave throttle control for later.
It also has an automated takeoff and landing function. For beginners one of the biggest hurdles is getting the drone off the ground and in the air. No problem for the HS190.
Just like the Eachines Mini, the HS190 has a headless mode and return function. It does however lack prop guards, which is what you give up for the ability to fold it up and stick it in your pocket. It’s a little more expensive than other nano drones, but I think it’s a great total package.
Look, we all know you love your children, but some children need a little more help every now and then. If little Billy or Suzy really wants to try their hand at flying a drone, but you’re still picking bits of glass from the carpet from the last time they broke something, the HAK901 might be right up your alley.
In principle this is just another basic nano drone with four channels and all the same basic controls as the other drones in this article. In case you missed it, what makes this drone different is the honking huge cage they put all around it. Connected to the drone’s body with a simple metal axle, this cage acts as a buffer between the delicate little drone and the walls, ceiling and other common causes of instant drone demise. Yes, as you can imagine this does not make for the best handling or battery life, but it does mean you won’t have to repeatedly buy new props or drones because your little munchkin is a little slow on the uptake.
This drone for kids is rated for five to seven minutes, although I guess five is the safer bet here. Unlike most nano drones this one has a swappable battery, so you can buy a few and then fly for extended durations without having to charge.
It doesn’t have fancy features like headless mode, altitude hold or automatic takeoff, but maybe that doesn’t matter when you can literally roll it along the ceiling.
Five Best Drones for Kids Over 13
If your prospective drone pilot is a little older, over thirteen or so, then you might feels comfortable getting them something a little more expensive, complex and feature complete. That’s not to say that any of the started drones I highlighted for younger pilots are wrong or something when it comes to adolescents. Something like the Eachine or Hubsan nano drones are great for all ages!
My focus here is however on drones that carry a little more weight, might have a smartphone app and also a camera. An intermediate step to something like a DJI Phantom.
I’m going to start this set of recommendations the way I ended the last ones – with a foolproof drone.
Like the HAK901, the Box Flyer is completely encapsulated in a protective plastic cage. Unlike the HAK901, this doesn’t look like something meant for an eight year old. Instead, it looks cool and rather sophisticated. More like a 007 gadget than a toy that says “I love you, but I don’t really trust you.”.
Nonetheless, if the target of your drone is someone who is a little older, but still with questionable coordination the Box Flyer might be the perfect choice.
It’s a nano drone that fits in your hand, even with the cage attached. One neat thing about this cage design is that it doesn’t really make the drone that much large or change its basic shape. A ball-shaped cage can’t really be stuffed in a bag, but in general I think that this will be just fine.
Even with the cage this little guy will go for up to five minutes on a charge. As you can imagine the cage makes it impractical to change out batteries, so you’ll have to be happy with waiting for it to charge up again.
It does have headless mode and an auto roll function, but otherwise it’s a pure manual machine which even the most ham-handed beginners won’t trash easily.
This is where we start getting into drones that have features similar to the premium camera drones, but are still down there in price. This is another nice drone for children from Holy Stone. Instead of a kid-friendly look this sports a killer black tacticool designs that’s sure to appeal to teens.
Prop guards are included so that those who are a little wonky on their flight skills have a safety net, but it’s not all caged up or anything.
This drone comes with two grown-up features. First of all, it has a 720p 120-degree camera onboard. Not really a camera meant to record footage, but that wide-angle lens makes it great for first-person flying. Which is a good thing, because this also has a WiFi module that can transmit video to a smart device like a phone.
That phone can be mounted on the transmitter itself. The transmitter looks exactly like a gamepad, which should feel familiar to just about any teenager these days.
It has an altitude hold feature, which makes learning to fly much easier by letting you master pitch, yaw and roll first, and then throttle control. That also helps with getting good shots with the camera. There’s also a headless mode for those struggling with orientation.
This bundle includes two batteries in the box and Holy Stone says this drone will fly for between seven and ten minutes. So that’s at least 14 minutes with both batteries taken into consideration. A great drone for kids, and f I were a teen this would be an awesome present to get.
The U818A from Holy Stone takes the idea of an encapsulated drone and dials it down a little so that it seems as if the prop guards aren’t just an addition, but an integral part of the drone. The four loops that separate the props on this drone fit so well with the rest of the machine that it won’t look right without them.
The U818A has a built-in 2 megapixel camera, but it doesn’t have any live video broadcast ability. It is mounted at the bottom of the drone, which does provide the potential for nice clear shots. That’s not a main draw for this drone however. What’s nice about the U818A is the powerful flight abilities it has. It’s fast and can fly between seven and nine minutes. Unfortunately it takes between 90 and 120 minutes to charge, but you can buy several batteries and charge them up in advance.
It’s a pretty simple machine, focusing rather on performance and feel. It has a headless mode, but no other automations. The controller is very traditional and two batteries are included in the box. If you have a nice outdoor space available for the kids to fly, the U818A looks like a lot of fun.
Some people say that kids these days have short attention spans. That might suggest the five minute flight time of the average small beginner drone is perfect for their generation, but that’s not very charitable. In fact, if someone is having fun, changing batteries or heading for a recharge after just a few minutes is a pain. That’s the main value proposition of the Qcopter drone. It has a relatively massive 1100mAh battery which provides up to 30 minutes of flight on a charge. That’s in line with big expensive drones from DJI, but at a palatable price.
In addition this drone has a 1080p camera, has live FPV broadcast to your phone and a snazzy looking controller with phone holder. One other interesting inclusion is a ”crash kit” with a few common extra parts that are most likely to break in a crash. There’s even a repair video included. It’s a very nice touch.
If you didn’t know, there’s a rapidly-growing sport known as drone racing. Here people either use screens or strap video goggles to their faces and race around a track. Usually these drones are quite expensive, custom built and faster than a bat out of hell.
Well, if drone racing is something your teen is thinking about buying a pre-built entry-level racer is a good place to start. They should probably master flying regular drones first, but this Holy Stone HS230 RC is a great place to start
It’s design is minimalist but very cool. It has a quick change battery system and wide-angle camera. It will hit 45 kph, which is not too shabby. You don’t need a phone to watch the live video feed either. The transmitter has a built in LCD video display that uses a 5.8Ghz system for smooth, low-latency video.
The controller uses a different 2.4Ghz frequency and has its own lithium battery. It’s a bit more niche than the rest and not for complete beginner of drone flight overall, but a great entry into a wonderful new sport.
Great Drones for Kids You´ll also Love
The final recommendations I want to make aren’t just for the kids, but are two drones that have reasonable prices,but come with features that make them great to share with your kids. Perfect for both learning the ins and outs of owning a drone and capturing family memories, they aren’t toys but are very cool nonetheless.
The DJI Tello is one of my favorite new drones on the market. Although the drone is sold by DJI, it is not in fact built by them. It’s a third-party company that makes the Tello with help from DJI. Mainly DJI have provided their excellent software. So in a way it’s a DJI brain inside the body of a value drone for kids.
The Tello does not come with a controller, just like the DJI Spark. It is meant as an entry-level selfie drone. You can buy a version with a controller if you want for a few more dollars though. Live FPV is a given and this is the drone with the most autonomy at this price point I have ever seen.
It’s an awesome little camera drone, but it’s made even better for parent-child time by the fact that this drone was made to be programmed. It has a special programming language that not only teaches the fundamentals of coding, but let’s you do things with the Tello limited only by your imagination. Well that and the laws of physics.
The Bebop drones from Parrot are much more expensive than anything else in this article, but not so expensive that you can count them among more expensive camera drones. It’s a good bridge to the big time and if you look at the specs you’ll see why. It has a wonderful 14-megapixel camera with a fisheye lens. Which gives the footage a very action camera feel. The battery will keep it airborne for 25 minutes and during that time you’ll be working with their very modern and sophisticated FreeFlight 3 app, which also doubles as the controller. It’s fast, futuristic and unfortunately heavy enough to require FAA registration. A good family drone for sharing, although I wouldn’t let junior take it out for a spin without keeping an eye on it!
Kid Drones and The Job of the Future
Like it or not, drones and drones for kids are here to stay. Many modern jobs didn’t exist just a few years ago and we don’t know which new jobs are going to exist in future. For the medium term though it’s clear that semi-autonomous and autonomous systems such as multirotor drone are going to create entirely new industries. Getting your children interested in drones and the technology that makes them popular could actually lead to a career one day. From being a professional drone operator or drone racing start to taking on the job of building and maintaining drones, there’s a lot of potential here.
It’s not just the possibility of stimulating your kids to be interested in science technology and the outdoors, it also provides an opportunity to spend time with them in an age where they’d rather be playing minecraft on an iPad or chatting with their friends online. That’s a rare thing these days and a few hundred bucks is a small price to pay to get that priceless time.
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