Once a preserve of the government and military operations, drones have since evolved to become a staple in many homes and educational institutions. You can even get drones for less than $100! The fact that they are affordable now, coupled with the global awareness of a need to develop STEM skills in children, has further increased the popularity of drones. Additionally, learning institutions such as RethinkSchool are incorporating STEM training in their curriculum, and the unmanned aerial vehicles are the go-to tools. All these factors, in addition to the fact that flying a drone is pretty exciting, are the reason all kids want their own drones!
It is commonplace to find the young ones interested in technology and keeping up with the trends. Drones are a drastic improvement of the previously popular remote-controlled aeroplanes. The technology used to make these UAVs keep advancing daily, with smaller and more efficient drones being launched before one can blink. These efficiencies also bring with them a great advantage to the consumer; affordability.
The fact that drones are not as expensive as they used to be, and a parent can find a good quality UAV at a good price, has fueled recreational flying especially in Community-Based Organizations. Today, you will find a good number of social media users featuring pretty good aerial shots, which the young generation drool over. This only helps in fuelling the desire among young people to learn more about drones.
While it is commonplace to see teenagers working a drone, it is understandable if parents are a little hesitant in introducing drones to younger children. Besides several concerns such as safety and flying knowledge, there is a general lack of trust in a child’s ability to stick to the set laws pertaining to drone flying.
Is it safe for kids to operate drones? Well, that is a question that goes through the mind of every guardian or parent when the issue of buying a drone for a child is raised. The answer to this question depends on a few factors, top on that list being the age of the child. Other factors such as the type of drone and availability of parental supervision also influence the decision to buy a drone.
Very young children should not use drones. This is because they may not understand the mechanisms involved, and might end up causing injury to themselves or other people. Additionally, they are also prone to putting small items into their mouths, which can also result in injury if close supervision is not maintained.
The recommended age to introduce drones to children is 8 years. Majority of the kids' drones are made for children who are 8 years and above. You will find most of them with a “toy drone” tag to indicate that they are safe to use for children who are at least 8 years.
Let’s get one thing straight; drones are serious equipment. Toy drones, regardless of the tag, are serious equipment like all other drones and should be treated as such. The reason why they are labelled toy drones is that their design is appropriate for a young user. These drones have incorporated all the safety features that are necessary for a child of that age to work a drone without issues. However, you as a parent or guardian should be able to assess your child and determine whether they are ready and responsible enough to handle a drone.
Drones that are made for children who are 12 years and below are smaller, lighter, and handy and can even be used indoors. There are some options when it comes to these drones; indoor only or those that can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Most toy drone models do not have attached cameras. Additionally, most of them come with limited flying range and flying time. They are also pretty easy to operate, which makes them perfect for young children. These simple drones come with limiting features to make it easy to comply with the laws of the land. It is important to avoid legal issues even as you ensure the safety of the young drone pilot, the people and property around.
DJI phantoms are the most popular drones when it comes to younger users. While it is sophisticated equipment that should be handled by older responsible children or adults, the DJI Phantom can be quite educational with proper supervision. Drone education is essential before you allow your child to handle the equipment.
Before you allow your child to fly a drone especially in front of the neighbours, make sure you are complying with the set laws and regulations. It is commonplace to have children who are 13 years and above approved to own drones. However, it is essential to check with your local aviation authority for more information on what is legal when it comes to flying drones in your local spaces.
Flying any unmanned aerial vehicle is an exciting experience that builds the pilot’s skills and confidence. When you finally bow to the pressure of buying a drone for your child, it is essential that you educate them on the set aviation authority rules. You need to emphasize the laws that protect people, their privacy and their property and the consequences of flaunting those rules. The truth is that it is pretty easy to stay within the legal limits of drone flying.
What are these legal limits that we keep talking about? Well, here are some of the general legal requirements of operating a drone. You can always get more in-depth information on particular situations on the CAA website.
• Register your drone with the CAA, especially the fancy, outdoor UAVs
• Make sure you have the appropriate insurance cover for your drone
• Always make sure you see the drone when your child is flying it, and teach them the importance of maintaining a line of vision
• Avoid practising flying in areas with a lot of people, especially when the child hasn’t mastered the drone’s safety controls
• Avoid flying the drone over neighbours’ properties or near their house windows as they have a right to privacy
• Keep the drone within its set flying ranges interns of height and distance from the controller
• Always adhere to all the safety and legal requirements as may be required by CAA or the local authorities
There are a number of safety rules that you need to observe while flying drones with children. This is especially important if you allow the children to handle the drone, and are only present to supervise. As fun as it could be, drones need to be handled with a lot of care and responsibility. Here are some of the general safety rules that you need to observe.
1. Always stay within legal limits
According to the aforementioned rules, it is essential to stay within the legalities stipulated by CAA. Additionally, be sure to check the rules governing the areas where you wish to practice drone flying. You may find yourself inclined to visit parks, for example, to practice. In such cases, be sure to clear with local authorities and ensure that drone flying in the area is authorized before you kick-off.
2. Personal privacy is essential
If you decide to practice in a public place such as a park, do not take photos or videos of people, especially if you haven’t talked to them first. If you decide to practice at home, stay clear of your neighbours’ property. The law protects personal privacy.
3. It is not a buy-and-fly affair
The excitement of finally having a drone makes children want to go out and fly it immediately. While this is understandable, it may not be safe. Instead, before you take out the drone for a test spin, there are a few things you should do.
• Ensure that it is perfectly assembled – some drones need you to assemble the parts first
• Check the batteries and charge appropriately if need be
• Read the instructions on how to operate that particular drone
• Ensure that you have all the accessories hooked up as they should be
• Ensure that there is a safe, secure area to practice flying, whether indoors or outdoors
• Ensure that you are available and sober enough to supervise the children’s activities
Do not give novice children a drone to fly by themselves for the first time! Always fly with them the first few times, and with keen supervision, let them practice on their own. If you are not sure of any safety rule, always refer to the CAA website for clarity.
4. Beware of animals
There are rules governing people’s safety and privacy. Similarly, there are laws that protect animals, and especially so, wildlife. If you choose to practice flying in an area that has wildlife, you are required to keep the drone about 300m away from them. Violation of some of these safety rules come with hefty fines so it is best to obey them.
5. People safety must always be a priority
One of the things that you need to emphasize a lot is that in a situation where you have to choose between the safety of a person or a drone, choose the person. The truth is that UAVs, despite being sophisticated equipment, are still machines. One thing about machines is that they are prone to malfunction at one point or another. It is important to make your child understand that their safety and that of other people should always come first in case of an incident.
Remind your child that if they fly a drone to a potentially risky area, and it gets stuck, they should not try to get it on their own. They should always ask an adult or relevant authority to help out. Even as an adult, you should never put yourself at risk while trying to save a drone.
Additionally, teach your child to stay away from a drone in flight. As fascinating as it can be to want to watch closely how the propellers work, it is imperative that all children are sensitized on the need to avoid contact with drones in flight. It is very vital that they understand that they should never try to catch the drone by hand as the propeller motion can cause serious injuries.
With the legal and safety information at hand, it is time to think about some practical applications of flying drones in regards to children. Here are a few guiding questions.
• How hard is it for kids to fly drones?
This may catch you by surprise, but it is the truth; it is so much easier for children to learn how to fly drones than it is for adults! Here is the thing; children who are always playing video games are familiar with flying skills. Since most drones are small and their controller looks like a gamepad, they can easily take up the challenge. However, it is essential that you supervise then all the time, and allow them to keep practising.
• What if the neighbours raise a complaint?
One of the reasons why parents hesitate to buy drones for their kids is the concern for their neighbours’ reaction. If there haven’t been any drones flying in the neighbourhood, it is advisable to alert the neighbours before the child starts practising. Additionally, always teach your children to be respectful of the privacy and property of the neighbours. You may even encourage the neighbours to come over and see the drone in action!
As much as possible, have the children practise flying in open areas where obstacles and people are fewer. In addition to the CAA rules, you can set some rules for your kids. Some of these rules may include hours they are permitted to fly especially during the day. This ensures that they are safe at all times.
• What is the value of having the drone?
There is a lot of value that a child can get from playing with drones. However, in order to guarantee value, it is essential to get age-appropriate drones. It is also important to think of the objectives of buying the drone for your kids before you make the purchase. This should not be just another toy; there have to be objectives that you wish to achieve by having them learn about unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s essential that children learn how to build drones, STEM skills are vital in today’s job market.
Older kids who may have an interest in aviation are bound to get a lot of practical information on how aerial vehicles work. Younger kids, on the other hand, may not be too keen on robotics, engineering and all those other lessons that come with drones. However, drones will still be a great STEM learning tool. With some practice, they will understand basic physics, as well as improve on eye-hand coordination and take their flying skills a notch higher. The best thing about introducing drones to younger kids is that their interest in STEM is sparked early on.
Consider your budget against the value that your kids will get out of the experience. Quality drones tend to be a tad expensive, though you can get some that are as cheap as $100. High-end drones come with a variety of high tech features, benefits and accessories such as cameras. If your kids are just starting out, it is advisable to start with basic drones then build their skills in handling more advanced UAVs with time.
Remember to conduct maintenance of the drones as instructed by the manufacturer. Drones come with instructions on how to do maintenance. For the most part, some of these maintenance activities can be done at home. However, if there are some parts that are damaged or malfunctioned, it is advisable to enlist the services of a professional to help out.
• Should I Choose Manual or Auto Flying Mode?
Did you know that most drones come with both manual and auto flying modes? The reason why the drone has an auto flying mode is to aid in an incident-free training session. The auto mode prevents simple accidents from happening when accidental actions such as button flips are done. Once the child gets a hang of how flying should be done, they can now try the manual mode. Most kids’ drones come with buttons that allow for incredible aerial acrobatics.
In addition to the auto flying mode, most kids’ drones also come with the emergency shut off switch. This is a switch that you can use to prevent accidents. For those drones that do not have obstacle and collision avoidance features, they may have this shut off button. It comes in handy when a drone is about to hit something, and you switch it off to minimize the damage of the collision.
• Is the drone meant for indoor or outdoor use?
A lot of kids drones, especially those that are suitable for children under 8 years, are meant for indoor use only. This is because they are lightweight and can be easily blown away by the wind. Additionally, it helps the child to learn where to fly and how to handle a flying object before they are exposed to more complex aerodynamic issues and devices.
Outdoor drones tend to be heavier and bigger, and in most cases, not suitable for indoor use. Some kids’ drones, however, can be used for both indoor and outdoor use. When practising with an outdoor drone, help your child to keep it closer to the ground as they learn how to control it in breezy conditions. With time, the young pilot will know how to handle even the bigger drones at windy conditions.
• Front, back or headless mode?
Drones have a front and back. Most drones have coloured props that may be lighter at the front. Alternatively, some drones have LED lights at the front which makes it easy for the kids to differentiate between front and back when flying. Alternatively, you can buy a drone with a headless function. This means that the drone can fly in any direction towards the set destination without the pilot first positioning it headfirst. No need to worry; the headless function follows the controller command and will move accordingly.
• How easy is it to repair?
The truth is that you will need to replace some parts every now and then. This is because learners are prone to small mistakes that can lead to mishaps and collisions. It is important that you know how the drone can be repaired and where to get the spare parts at good prices.
Generally, kids’ drones are quite sturdy. It does take a lot to break it apart. However, it is true that they are more prone to accidents than drones that are manned by adults. Some kids drone kits come with extra units for ease of repair. Other sellers will advise you, at the buying point, to pick up additional kits and even advice you on how to do minor repairs to the UAVs. This is especially essential in keeping up the lessons so that the drone is not grounded for lack of a professional. If the drone sustains serious damage, it is advisable to contact a professional to help with the repairs.
Now that you know the safety, practical and legal requirements of flying a drone, it is time to go shopping! There are endless options when it comes to buying drones for kids. Here are some of the most common options in the market today. This simple guide is in no way exhaustive; you can browse around the internet and shop around eCommerce platforms to get ideas of kids’ drones available today.
This is one of the most popular options under $100. It comes with a 5MP camera that can take photos as well as record 720p videos. This UAV is easy to use, lightweight and can perform a few impressive tricks. It can fly up to 10 M upwards and 100 M away from the controller. When fully charged, it is functional for about 13 minutes before recharge is required. A full recharge takes about one hour. It is equipped with features such as DJI flight tech that helps stabilize it while it is airborne. It is compatible with a VR set and it gives a first-person view. While it doesn’t come with spare batteries, you can buy an additional battery for about $16. You can get this UAV on major eCommerce platforms. This drone can be used by children who are at least 14 years of age.
This is one of the best mini drones for kids. It is unbelievably affordable, lightweight and suitable for children who are at least 8 years of age. It is pretty easy to use; just toss it in the air and it will automatically hover. You can get some versions of this mini drone that are suitable for children who are 4 years old!
The VK330 foldable quadcopter has only one tap for takeoff or land, and it has a return to home feature which is activated by just one tap. It has such features as headless mode, altitude hold and 3-speed functions. This mini drone can do incredible flips and a few other stunts. It is small in size and can be folded to fit into small bags.
This foldable mini drone comes with two modular batteries that are easy to install. When fully charged, the drone can be airborne for 14 minutes. The drone also has propeller guards that are designed to keep the children at a safe distance from the running propeller blades. It is pretty hardy, and is built for safe, steady landing and will not come apart even if it crash-lands.
This is one of those drones that are cheap yet absolutely awe-inspiring. It is suitable for children who are at least 8 years and above. Its design is a basic-looking a stainless steel flying orb. It is equipped with advanced features such as collision avoidance, flight stabilizers, intelligent onboard system, and motion-sensitive lights. This drone doesn’t use a remote; just toss it in the air and use hand gestures to move it around!
The Airhogs are excellent stunt drones; they can spin, disco dance and even orbit around you! With more than 9 cool tricks and 30 moves to practice, you are sure to keep it fun whether playing solo or tossing it between buddies. With some practice, your child will quickly master this equipment and be well on their way to being an expert, especially in stunts.
The Supernova Airhogs are ready to fly, and the kit is fully equipped with all the necessary accessories namely; the instruction manual, USB charger cable, rotor removal tool and rotors. Its innovative design has won several awards, and it is currently considered one of the trendiest kids drones today. Keep the drone away from children who are below 3 years as it has small parts that can cause choking if mishandled.
Syma has been in the market for some time and has become a staple in recreational drone flying. Syma has more than 20 helicopters and quadcopters in the market today, all of which are of good quality. The Syma X5C is a high-quality kids’ drone, with stable dynamics and a sleek design despite being relatively affordable. This is perfect for beginners as it is easy to fly. It is also hardy enough to withstand some rough landing, which is common in learning.
The 6 axis gyroscope ensures that the drone stays stable when it is airborne, even in windy conditions. It also comes with a 360-degree eversion control that allows the drone to safely rollover. This is important when the child wants to learn how to do stunts with the X5C. This UAV also comes with a stable controller, which is as effective in larger distances as it is in shorter ones. The flight controller is rarely affected by interferences.
If you stay in places that tend to be a little windy, you can opt for this X5C. If you want to have manoeuvrability, you can remove the prop guards and the camera. The drone has LED lights that guide the learner on drone orientation. However, during the day, these lights may appear a little dim. However, it is still pretty easy to tell the orientation of the drone.
Syma X5C has a720p HD, 2MP camera that takes pretty good shots. With a 2GB data storage capacity (MicroSD), you are sure that the photos and videos you take are safely stored. Additionally, you can simply insert the MicroSD into a PC for photo and video viewing. The camera is fixed in one direction and it comes with focus and zooming settings. While the shots are not incredibly stunning, they are pretty decent.
The drone can go for about 10 minutes after which recharge is necessary. If you are fond of taking photos and videos, the battery will last a little shorter than 10 minutes. You can always carry spare batteries with you to ensure that you do not miss out of great opportunities to practice flying, especially if you have to go away from home to get good spots. The Syma X5c quadcopter is versatile, and a great drone for beginners and the experienced pilots alike.
Personal safety is paramount. Regardless of the child’s age and the type of drone you choose, you can never overemphasize the importance of their safety and that of other people. As such, always ensure that the child plays with the UAV of choice under supervision. This is important to avoid injuries.
It is important to stay within the legal confines governing UAVs. In addition to the set CAA laws, it is essential that you pay attention to the local laws as well. Stay clear of prohibited areas and always respect people’s privacy.
Always strive to learn as much as you can about how a drone operates before you introduce it to your child. Familiarize yourself with all the features that come with the drone. It is important that you are aware of what everything on the control panel does so that you can correct any mishaps if need be and to get the most valuable experience from drone. Additionally, as the supervising adult, it improves the learning process if you are able to answer the learner’s questions as asked. It is also essential to understand your drone of choice so as to ensure that all safety precautions are honored. You can always enrol your child into a STEM class or a drone training program if you are not very conversant in the field.
Regardless of the age recommendations, you should be in a position to tell whether your child is ready and responsible enough to handle a drone. Additionally, you can easily tell their interests, and therefore can opt for a drone that boosts their skills in their preferred interests. Be sure to expose the child to as many learning points as possible when it comes to these STEM toys.
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