As the holiday season rolls around – yes, Virginia, the decorations are up – drones are expected to fly off the shelf as kids around the world rev up their wish lists.
Toy/model drones are perfect for wee beginners; most are inexpensive ($29 to $100) and are built to be durable while offering easy-to-use-controls and stability.
If you’re looking for a drone your child can fly right out of the box on a chilly Christmas morning, the Potensic Mini Drone for Kids is ready for easy, indoor or backyard flight. At $43 (Amazon), it won’t dent your holiday budget or your furniture since it sports blade guards.
Potensic can be controlled by both smartphone and compact controller. A flight app allows your child to finger-draw a route on the viewscreen. When activated, the Potensic will follow the route regardless of airframe orientation. One-button take off and land mode – as well as altitude hold — gives the budding young pilot peace of mind as a beginner. Flight time is only about 7 minutes, but re-charging is quick and easy.
At $119 (company website), the Altair AA108 is a bit pricier but you get what you spend and this model is built for durable flying. Recommended for children older than 13, the AA108 offers 720p video resolution, flight-plan creation in the app, as well as an automatic low-battery “return-to-pilot” landing mode (flight time averages 10 minutes).
Headless and Altitude Hold modes guarantee the AA108 will never plummet if accidentally flown out of range. Unlike most beginner drones, the AA108 includes a second battery for impatient flyers.
As children progress to adult-level drones, chances are they’ll eventually own a DJI – the Chinese manufacturer is the largest in the world.
The Tello ($99 DJI Store) is a solid entry in DJI’s novice-level, kid-friendly lineup. Rotor guards can be installed or removed as the pilot becomes more adept at navigating.
Because the palm-sized Tello hovers on the border between child and grownup drone, it’s a bargain at $99 since it coul soon become the family drone, enjoyed by children AND mom and dad.
Kids will love the throw-and-go function – just toss the Tello in the air to begin flight. The entire family will delight in the 8D aerial stunt feature as well as its smartphone VR compatibility. At 13 minutes, Tello boasts the longest flight time. With a 300-foot transmission distance, the drone is perfect for a flight at your local park (check local rules first).
For young beginners, Tello has you covered with a collision detection system and it hovers in place if you let go of the controller. Add in Intel’s Movidius vision processing unit and DJI’s flight stabilization tech, what’s not to love about this under-$100 drone?
For the youngest drone enthusiast, the Syma X5C (Amazon) is the clear choice. Its $33 price tag removes the “boredom fatigue) – that feeling you get when you fork out lots of money on a toy that Junior will discard in boredom after a week.
In addition to flight stabilization and hover mode, the Syma X5C includes a slow-go mode (it’s like training wheel for the youngest flyers).
As with the cheaper drones, you only get about 7 minutes of flight time per charge but – once again – it’s $33.
Note: Many drone companies discontinue toy model drones often. Be aware your child’s new drone could be discontinued after purchase, leaving you with no support. The rule of thumb is that established companies like DJI are less likely to yank support. Happy Shopping!