Want to give your little one a hobby drone as a gift but confused if it is appropriate for him/her? No problem, you are not the only one to face this situation as there are several things you need to consider before buying a drone for kids. This mainly depends on the age of your child – is your kid a youngster under 10 or a teenager?
For younger kids, they might have seen flying drones in movies and their interest may last a week or two but in case of a teenager, their interest may be shooting bird’s-eye view pictures, selfies, or a career in aviation. In this guide, we have put together some things you should consider before buying a hobby drone for your kid(s). Let’s get started.
What Is A Drone?
A drone is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – generally a small quadcopter that you fly through the skies or command to do special tricks via its remote control or your smartphone. You can take amazing bird’s eye pictures or make videos of yourself far away from the sky with the help of the equipped camera.
What Can Kids Do With Drones For Fun?
A new hobby or toy drone is a great way to get your child outside, away from smartphones that keep them stuck inside the home. This way, they can also have fresh air and some fun showing their flying skills. Kids today can not only do flips in the air with their latest drones but also capture decent pictures with an onboard camera.
Here are some fun things the kids can do with drones:
- Basic tricks such as making figure 8 in the air
- Explore areas that are difficult or impossible to reach on foot
- Drone racing with their friends
- Tackle different obstacles, to challenge their drone flying skills
- Picking up the payload and then dropping it on the landing pad – lift and set games
There’s a lot that your kids can do with their drones, but before you go ahead and buy the best one online or from the market, you should ask yourself the following questions first:
- Age of your little one
- Legal age to fly
- Features to consider
- Cost of a drone
Appropriate Age of a Kid to Fly a Drone
Most, if not all, drone manufacturers post a hazard/warning on their product packaging, suggesting the right age group to fly that particular drone. For example, they may state that you must be 14+ to fly this drone. In the USA, if your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you must be 13 years of age to register it, and it can be done by paying some fee. This is basically nothing but a judgmental call as to whether your little one is mature enough to control and handle a drone or not.
Do I Require A License To Fly A Drone?
Well, there is no such information available that clearly states that you require a license to fly a hobby or toy drone. However, the bottom line is that if your drone is under 0.55 pounds, you don’t need to go through any legal process and register it – for such drones, there is no age restriction other than knowing that if your kid has the ability and common sense to handle the drone all by himself/herself.
However, if your drone is over 0.55 pounds, you should first review the FAA website for all the details.
Is Flying A Drone Safe For My Kids?
Safety should be your significant concern when you are considering to buy a drone for your kid(s). Even though it is a toy drone, there are still moving parts in it such as the blades that could pose a serious risk of hurting someone (or your kid) badly. The best thing you can do is teach your child drone safety, where to and not to fly, rules to follow, and how to control his/her new drone.
You can find more information on drone safety on the FAA’s website.
What Features Should I Consider?
For age 8 or below:
- Safety (prop guards)
- Durability (sturdy construction)
- Extra propellers
- Easy start
- Extra batteries
- Altitude hold
- Comes with a controller
For age 8-12:
- Make sure to get a bundled package that includes extra batteries, propellers, etc.
- Comes with a controller
- Easy start (one-button control)
- Return to home
- GPS or altitude hold
- Headless mode
- Buy a bundled package that includes extra batteries, propellers, etc.
- Mobile app for the phone (to control the drone or check its current location)
- Flight modes including one button take off and return to home
- A travel case
- A controller (while some may also use your phone as a controller)
Is It Hard For Kids To Fly A Drone?
Depending on age, kids today can quickly learn to fly a drone. They may already have watched videos on YouTube on how to fly a drone, or they have spent a good amount of time playing flight simulation games on a phone, PC or console. So, they have familiarity with the controllers.
However, it is not that hard for kids to fly a drone because the latest drones and quads are cheaper, lighter, and easy to control as compared to the previous ones. They also have several flight modes to help the beginners fly and control them without any problem. But still, practice is important for safety reasons.
Some more points to consider:
Do Research and Know the Flying Rules
Even if the drones that are marketed for kids are not handled the right way, can cause a lot of damage to property or even someone’s life. You should first do some research and know the rules before buying a hobby drone for your kid. In some cases, not following the government’s rules could mean huge fines and safety risks. However, it is not that your child will be busted for not following the rules, but you as a responsible parent should make him/her aware of all the rules before handing him/her the drone’s remote control.
A high-quality hobby drone isn’t cheap, which means you will be investing on a thing that can easily break into pieces if not handled the right way. Know where you can buy drone parts before you hand the drone to your child in case they need to be replaced. Before giving your child full control over the drone, you should first teach him/her how to operate it in different situations. Doing so will make sure that you are not just wasting your money.
You can’t just hand over a drone to your child and let him/her do whatever he/she wants. Make sure to be responsible and keep a check on your kid if he/she is handling the drone well or not. Ask him/her to be mindful of surroundings like trees, windows, power line, and respect people’s privacy. He/she should not film neighbors without their consent.
Also, if your kids are flying their drone in the park or a public place, it’s a good idea to be with them during that time because curious people are going to have some concerns and questions or they might want a turn.
Following are the FAA’s guidelines for recreational flyers (if you fly drones for fun, these are for you):
Following these rules will not only keep your hobby drone safe but also help keep the airspace available for other hobbyists too.
- You should register your drone with FAA and mark it with the registration number on the outside.
- You should only fly for recreational/fun purposes.
- You should follow all the safety guidelines of a community-based organization.
- You should fly your hobby drone at or below 400 feet when in “Class G” airspace (uncontrolled). It is the airspace where the FAA is not monitoring and controlling manned air traffic. To determine the type of airspace, you can refer to the mobile app that operates your zone.
- You should NOT fly your hobby drone in controlled airspace (above or around many airports). If you want to fly around an airport, you need an airspace authorization for operations in controlled space through Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
- You should keep your hobby drone within your line of sight.
- You should never fly near other aircraft (airports).
- You should never fly over stadiums of people, groups of people, and public events, until or unless you have permission from the FAA to do so.
- You should never fly near emergencies such as law enforcement activities, firefighting, accident response, or hurricane recovery efforts.
- You should never fly under the influence of alcohol or any kind of drug.
If recreational flyers intentionally violate any of these safety requirements/guidelines or recklessly operate their drone, they could be liable for civil/criminal penalties.
We hope that our guide has cleared all your confusions regarding the decision to buy a hobby drone for your kids. In short, a hobby drone is a great way to make your child learn complicated things and overcome the fear of learning. Once your child knows how to fly a drone the right way, you no longer have to worry about being with him/her all the time while he/she is playing with his/her drone.
And yes, don’t forget to stay out of the tree. Stay safe!