From paper airplanes to kites to rockets, flying toys are a staple of childhood and a source of endless fascination with the science of flight. Now drones have joined the lineup, becoming the “it” gift with models as inexpensive as $19.99. But the multitude of products on the market can make it difficult to choose the drone that’s right for your child – especially if terms like FPV and RTF stop you cold.
Hobby products specialist Hobbico has set up an online drone headquarters at www.hobbico.com/dronehq to help shoppers cut through the clutter. The company also offers these guidelines for matching the drone to the child. Parents should consider factors such as:
- The child’s age and skill level. Kids as young as 8 can fly many of the entry-level drones, depending on the design of the radio transmitter. For younger children and first-time fliers, for example, look for ease-of-use features like True Direction mode, which moves the drone in the same direction as the control sticks. Drones with an app that allow the ‘pilot’ to control the craft from a smartphone are the easiest to fly, but they begin in the $300 range.
- Level of adult supervision expected. Your choice of drones should also depend on whether you anticipate that your child will be ‘flying’ solo or as part of a family activity. The more adult involvement expected, the more bells and whistles you may want to purchase.
- Indoor or outdoor? Many of the small drones can be flown indoors. Others are outdoor-exclusive. Some can do both. And larger drones are outdoor-only for obvious reasons. (Among other things, you don’t want a big drone crashing into your favorite lamp.) Be sure you know what space you have available to fly. Proximity to an airport may be a factor as well.
- Drone size. Bigger drones are more stable and therefore easier for beginners to control, especially outdoors in windy conditions, but the cost of repair in the event of a crash can be a pain in the wallet. Smaller drones – some of them not much larger than an insect – are harder to fly but can frequently bounce back from a crash with nothing more than an inexpensive rotor replacement. You need to decide which tradeoffs you’re willing to accept.
- Aerial capabilities. What does your child want to do with the drone? Just fly it? Make it do a 360° flip with the press of a button? Watch it fly upside down? Take aerial photos or videos? For teenagers, get involved in FPV (first-person view) racing? Check to see what ‘tricks’ a drone can perform before you make your decision.
- Camera or no camera? If aerial photography is on your child’s wish list, you’ll need a drone that includes a camera or lets you add your own. While drones that can capture high-quality photos and videos typically cost $600 and up, there are also photography-for-fun models that cost as little as $60. Some even offer an FPV feature that streams images from the camera to the radio transmitter’s LCD screen in real time, creating the feel of sitting in the cockpit.
- Price. As usual, you get what you pay for, but there are great options from $20 to $200. They won’t give you the control, capabilities or high-resolution images of professional-grade drones that cost thousands of dollars, but they’ll deliver hours of fun nevertheless.
Hobbico, Inc., is one of the largest radio-control product companies in the world – active not only in retail sales and wholesale distribution, but also in product development, marketing and support for many popular exclusive manufacturers. The company distributes a wide variety of toy, hobby and commercial products from hundreds of manufacturers, including over 40 proprietary brands. Hobbico also exclusively represents a large number of international manufacturers in the United States. For more information on Hobbico, visit hobbico.com.