Getting Your Kid a Drone: What to Look for
It hasn’t been a long time since drones stopped being an exclusive tool to military usage and started revolutionizing a multitude of fields, from agriculture to filmmaking. In 2015, over a million of them had already been sold to civilians. A good drone is one of the most sought-after things that technology has to offer, especially by kids and teenagers interested in content creation, but what is a good drone? And how do you know this drone you’re buying for your kid is good and, above all, safe?
There are a few things to consider when buying a drone for your kid.
Naturally, not all drones are suited for all ages. There are drones for kids 7-years old and below, but they are toy planes basically, not actual drones (and they don’t have cameras.) Other drones target children above 8 years old which have more consciousness as to what should and shouldn’t be put in their mouths or touched by their hands, so those drones are a bit more fancy and less protective: Some of them don’t have propeller protection (A plastic ring or net around the propellers to prevent them from colliding into your child’s skin) and most of them have small pieces and some have cameras. And of course, we go into higher and higher levels with drones that target teenagers above 14-years old, some of which can transmit video live via WiFi and can be connected to a VR headset to make you experience the drone’s flight in 3D.
So, take your child’s age into mind because not all drones will be suited to him/her. Research the options first, and most of them will have a website that indicates what age said option is suited to.
All drones can only fly a certain distance away from their remote control, but each one differs in how far. Bear in mind how your child intends to use it (for content creation? For hiking? Just for play? Indoor or outdoor? Did you know that in some countries it is illegal to use drones indoors?) All those questions will help you identify how big of a range you need.
For instance, for content creation, unless your child is a serious filmmaker not just a youtuber or instagram personality, you won’t need a very long range, and it is preferable that way since long ranges could cause privacy breaches anyways (you don’t want them to accidentally catch footage of someone doing a private activity on private property then air it to the world, do you?) for teenagers who like hiking, they might like a longer range. And of course for small children, you won’t need a very long range.
However, bear in mind that the distance your drone can fly away from the remote is not necessarily the same distance at which it can transmit video live. Most of the time it will be shorter by a considerable amount.
For most high-end drones the control distance is 80-100 meters, but the video transmission distance will be around 60 meters. Some other drones will offer around 30-50 meters control distance, and those are mostly meant for young children below 14-years old or even below 8-years old. It all depends on your child’s age and needs and how much you’re willing to pay.
Flight and Charge Time
If you think your drone is going to fly around and film for hours, you’re out of luck; most drones don’t fly any longer than 15 minutes or below. However, some will fly less and some will fly more, some will need a longer time to charge and some a shorter one.
Try to find a drone that comes with more than one battery so that you can charge them simultaneously and fly longer. If you don’t want to take the trouble to do that, try to find a drone that flies 10-15 minutes and doesn’t need more than 120-150 minutes to charge. Any more charging time for any less flight time is frankly too much hassle for too little play. Also, check out the manufacturer’s site for the possibility of buying more batteries. Some drones will also warn you when they’re about to run out of power, that option will be important for long ranges, so keep it in mind.
Now, let’s discuss one of the most important aspects which you can’t get around: The camera.
Again, the importance of this attribute depends on what you intend to use it for, but come on, you know you want that fancy, sharp, non-pixelated, well-exposed HD image. A drone camera is a lot like a Gopro action camera in a way; its exposure is automatically adjusted (no, fancy DSLR lovers who want to adjust their aperture and ISO and whatnot to their own preference are not in luck today, unless of course they want to pay an ungodly amount of money) and it shoots in HD. However, you need to consider a few things.
1. The angle: Some drones have a fisheye lens that shoots at around a wide 120˚ angle, and some others have a narrower angle of 45˚ to 90˚. There is no right or wrong here, pick what you prefer for your kid’s use.
2. The quality: You may want to find a drone that shoots at 1080p not just 720p. Slightly more expensive but it pays off (especially if you’re going to edit the drone footage with more footage from a DSLR or any camera that shoots at 1080p so that you don’t notice a shrinkage in quality. Trust us.)
3. The stabilizer: Another thing you might very much need is a stabilizer for your video image (basically a built-in device that prevents your footage from being shaky.) Consider this while choosing a drone camera.
There are features that you should have in any drone, kids’ or otherwise, such as headless mode, one-click return, and low battery alert. Some other features you might find yourself looking for, such as propeller protectors, multiple speeds and live-footage. There are features that are “gimmicks” (a gimmick is usually a negative word which describes an unusual selling point to lure in inexperienced buyers when it is in fact useless… we think that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it’s done right and true to word) such as dual cameras, a touch-screen remote or even gesture control (peace sign for a photo, closed fist for video… you get the idea.) You might find your child asking for some of these latter features, and since they don’t necessarily cost a lot of money (it all depends on the brand, really) we encourage you to oblige and save yourself a headache, unless you think one of those features is unsuited to your child.
Buying a drone for your kid is not a simple process that you can do without research. We strongly advise that you don’t just walk into a store and give in to a sales pitch. Do your research, ask your child what he/she wants, evaluate what he/she needs, consider all options for the range of money you got, and after doing all this, then you can open your wallet.