As an adult, choosing the best drone is a taxing compromise of price, features and quality. If you’re choosing the best drones for kids, you also need to consider safety and age-appropriateness. There’s also the tricky matter of price; you’ll no doubt wish to keep it down, but you’d love the user-friendly functionality and overall quality that pro devices bring...
Counter-intuitively drones aimed at children are often somewhat harder to operate; you’ll face simple irritations like the need for USB chargers, very short battery life, and questionable documentation, capped by a lack of pilot-assist functions.
As the feature list increases, the more this can be a complication. With that in mind, this list is clear on where the drone in question is best operated, and the age group it is intended for.
One thing we’d like to add here; many toy drones are built on the same, ‘drone-on-a-chip’ platforms bought from wholesalers and then superficially branded by toy manufacturers. My son had a flying yellow Minion with the same yellow IR teardrop 'controller' as some in this list. It’s not good or bad per se, but it does show it’s a different world from the prosumer.
So then, here are the best drones for kids that you can buy - whatever their age or your budget…
The 12 best drones for children
Unbelievably easy to operate, it’s easy to understand why (perhaps a little optimistically) the box suggests an 18-month old could fly it. As is the case for many of the drones in this price range, supervision is key.
The actual flight is magically simple – just hold the controller between your fingers and the drone responds to your movements, using its altitude lock to maintain height. Intervention, however, is needed to connect the device to the USB charger via fiddly connectors, so perhaps your kids might need a few more months of life-experience. It’s definitely best used indoors, and the propellor guards are good quality.
Another concern is the lightweight prop guard. Sure, it gives a few more seconds flight than similar products, but at the cost of making the delicate props a little easier to access for little fingers. They’re also somewhat prone to failure, so practise in larger rooms is recommended (and avoid expansive hand gestures as you talk!)
Compact and robust, this drone is not especially unique (though available in some nice shell tones), but thanks to in-built pressure sensor is capable of hovering without the operator’s help and flying using the pilot-friendly ‘headless mode.’
In practice, that means the drone can be moved around a room using a single control stick, which is easier than most video games! If you do crash, there are good solid prop guards.
On the down-side, the attempt to protect the battery with a flap is tidy but fiddly, and (as is always the case with tiny drones) don’t be fooled by the claims of 16 minutes' flight time – this is just a doubling of the (optimistic) eight-minute time for one battery since there are two in the box! That is, nevertheless, pretty good value and still a decent flight time.
Taking a mix of inspiration from the pro brands and the other toys, this drone offers the almost expected 3D flips and headless mode, but thanks to the addition of five sensors (front/back/left/right/bottom) it can also be directed by wafting a hand near the hovering drone; it’ll immediately back off. This also has an obvious safety bonus, though it should also be noted that the propellor guards are better than on many drones in this list.
Other features that make this an appealing choice are the circle mode (the drone will make small circles), choice of three speed modes, and the design of the batteries which are much easier to insert and remove without putting stress on delicate cables or lithium battery cells than some other compact drones.
One of the recurring problems with integrating cameras for first-person (FPV) control is providing the screen. Connecting a phone to control a drone means changing the wi-fi settings every time you power on the drone.
Annoying enough with your own drone, but if you’re handing your phone (and passcode) over to the kids every time they fly it can make you want to tear your hair out! The obvious solution? Put a display in the controller.
That is exactly the thinking here – and with a range of around 50m the drone is light enough to be durable, though it’s not for younger kids as the prop guard is a little rudimentary.
The H107D+ is a refresh of the much-loved (and cheaper) H107D, adding headless mode, headlights and a 720P camera.
The Tello shares a lot of tech with Ryze’s parent company, DJI, which is great news when it comes to quality and smarts.
The camera is built into the body offering five-megapixel stills or 720P video – this is as good quality as it gets in the toy market.
As well as the standard version, watch out for Iron-Man branded, and Edu(cational) flavors too – see below.
Naturally, there is the full range of flips and tricks to impress friends, , plus “EZ” video shots, but where it really excels is educational value. That even includes compatibility with Scratch – a block-based visual programming system so computer enthusiasts can learn programming on a phone or tablet in the most fun way possible. This coding capability makes the Ryze a popular choice with STEM educators.
While the robust airframe hasn’t seen an update since 2018, there have been several software updates keeping the app fresh. Other firms have written alternatives, available in phone app stores, which add functions like panoramic photography and FPV flight.
This is exactly the same drone as the Ryze Tello – but just gets a special paint job that will appeal to any fan of the Marvel Universe, and Iron Man in particular.
This is the best drone if you want to learn coding as well as flying, as you play with your quadcopter. This has the same specifications as the Ryze Tello and the Ryze Tello Iron Man – but this version allows you to program with commands using multiple languages. The original Ryze Tello will allow you to program Scratch and DroneBlocks – but this EDU version also lets you us Python and Swift programing languages; that's great for would-be coders. If you know others with the same drone, you can even program Tello EDUs to move in a swarm – and put on synchronized aerobatic displays. Another benefit of the EDU is that it comes with Mission Pads – patterned cards, that the drone can be programmed to recognize with its onboard camera, and then perform a precoded maneuver.
This drone is surprisingly well specified for the price, with a camera able to record 1080P video or adequate stills to a MicroSD card. Thanks to the GPS chip, it hovers on the spot (outdoors at least) when the controls are released, and has automatic return-to-home. That does make setup a little tricky, but the manual is adequate and following it through worked first time for me.
Once set up, the drone defaults to beginner mode which restricts it from flying more than 30m (100ft) from the operator, though this can be increased via the app, which will keep over-enthusiastic kids in check. Once the camera is aloft, it has to be admitted. Sure, the imagery isn’t pro quality, but it is good, and using the features like waypoints and automatic orbit will bring out the surveyor or film-director in anyone (an upcoming Snaptain SP510 adds a 2.7K camera).
It can be flown from the (rechargeable) remote alone, or with the assistance of a phone for live video feedback, which is very handy, and Snaptain hasn’t skimped on accessories: two batteries, two chargers, and optional propellor guards for the safety-conscious. The folding legs themselves may also cushion an early blow so, er, enthusiastic young pilots get a second chance after a collision.
OK, strictly speaking, DJI Mavic Mini isn’t a ‘toy’, though there are some who don’t understand the regulations who think ‘lightweight’ and ‘toy’ are interchangeable terms.
This is was DJI’s first stab at a sub-250g drone (the weight which is a cut off for registration in the USA & China, and a tier in the EU and UK). Frankly, it’s a brilliant job. For older kids with smartphones (or adults who haven’t quite grown up), this drone has the same basic components and flight time as more expensive pro drones. It can also record 2.7K video and 4000 x 3000 pixel JPEGs to a MicroSD card and, since the lens is stabilized, the results are streets ahead of other toys.
If you’re buying this, you’re buying a real flying camera as a serious gift; it can even capture automated flights for orbiting video selfies so you might be giving the recipient’s social media a boost too. You can also equip it with all kinds of extra features. In fact there is only one drone better on this list, and they’re closely related…
The Mavic Mini is a great choice for older kids who want to enjoy drones and photography, and is an even more appealing option at the moment if you can find it on discount. The DJI Mini 2 – launched in November 2020 – is the same or better in every respect; DJI have augmented the original drone with 4K video, automated panoramas, and raw mode?
Who’s it for? To be honest, this could serve for some serious users. If you’re buying for someone who loves still photography, or genuinely has a platform to show off 4K video, then the extra features on this machine seem a shame to ignore. Flying will still be as easy as possible, with automatic return-to-home and indoor visual positioning. If you’re buying for someone who simply must have the latest thing, then look no further.
This drone is also very well provided in terms of indoor and outdoor accessories, so whether you’re looking for something you can draw your own design on, hover a message to someone, or even turn into a mantlepiece decoration (no, really), this is a wonderful and generous gift that might well start a torrent.
Admittedly this isn’t a unique concept – a small quadcopter with a controller like a mini-joypad – but it’s a good example of what is the ideal starting place for any remote control enthusiasm which you sense. As a parent, or in order to be the favourite uncle, this is the kind of gift to supply!
The A11 is not one for the youngest, having as it does delicate batteries, and it does drift a little, and it has to be said that I couldn’t always persuade it to do its flip (which might have been because this only works when the battery is fully charged). On the other hand, it has some potentially useful features, like a battery warning beep which doubles up as a way to locate the drone if it’s been piloted behind the couch. The fact there are two spare batteries and USB charging cable in the box will stave off some arguments, though the box suggests age 14 is the minimum so be prepared to defend that (in our experience younger children do not appreciate being disqualified by such guidance)!
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