Every year there’s an in-demand gift for kids, something that boys and girls talk about incessantly and are anxious to own. Over time we’ve seen talking dolls (Tickle Me Elmo!), puzzles (Rubix cube!), and video games (Atari! Nintendo! Xbox!) rise to become the hot ticket item. So, what’s in demand this year? Toy drones!
It’s no secret that we live in a technologically advanced age. New techie creations are popping up on the market all the time. But for some parents, it’s hard to keep up with the latest and the greatest.
While our kids are discussing the ins and outs of toy drones, the grown-ups may not have a clue what they’re talking about. The following reviews will shed some light on the pros and cons of different drone toys and how to find the most appropriate one for your child.
We’ve seen the word “drone” in the news and it’s usually linked to the military and war strategies. Certainly, that’s not what we’re talking about here!
Toy drones are defined as remote-controlled (or radio-controlled) vehicles (for example boats, airplanes, or helicopters) that are operated by a small hand-held transmitter. The battery-powered transmitter sends a signal to the vehicle, let’s say a helicopter, and controls its movements: up, down, sideways, or even loop-to-loop. The most popular toy drones are in the shape of “quadcopters,” which are simple helicopters that have 4 propellers. The following reviews are focused on quadocopters.
Of course, parents will be more willing to spend money on a toy if there’s an educational component. So what can kids learn from toy drones?
First of all, drones provide an excellent entrée into the world of remote control technology. Kids can learn all the different segments of the toy and the science required to get it to lift off and fly.
Secondly, this type of play sparks creativity and imagination. There’s no limit to the scenarios a kid can dream up as they’re piloting a toy drone indoors or out (this is especially true with the models that have built-in cameras).
Next, the younger set can strengthen their motor skills when they use the remote controller, carefully making the drone fly in all directions. And the drones are also an excellent way to teach persistence and patience. It may take a few tries before your child can successfully pilot the drone and many minutes will be spent waiting for batteries to be switched out or recharged.
All in all, these skills can translate to other aspects of the child’s life, helping to increase (among other things) their confidence, coordination, inventiveness, and tolerance.
If you’re new to drone technology, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with a few terms. But first, we want to mention one term that pops up quite often: “headless mode.” This means that it doesn’t matter which way the drone is facing when it’s in flight (there’s no front or back, per se). So when you move the controller to the right, the drone will move to the right etc.
For more helpful terms, check out these sites:
How can you find the best drones for kids? Well, if you’ve never shopped for a drone toy before, here are some important guidelines to keep in mind.
Let’s face it, kids can be rough (even when they don’t mean to be). Therefore, since lots of these toys have small working parts, it’s to be expected that they’ll come apart at some point (especially during a crash landing!).
To deal with this, first make sure the drone is well built, but then find out if replacement parts are readily available. In fact, it’s a good idea to have extra parts on hand at all times.
Before choosing a quadcopter, consider your child’s age and their level of patience. Like so many things, it takes time to get the hang of piloting a toy drone, so you don’t want to present a model that’s too complicated or advanced.
For example, for beginners, look for quadcopters with a low and high speed. Similarly, a more experienced pilot will get bored quickly unless there are “expert” modes that allow for stunt flying.
Never forget that these little toys can potentially cause damage (think broken windows or damaged furniture). All of the drones reviewed below are “kid-friendly” and made with plastic blades, but it’s still smart to proceed with caution.
Teach your child to fly them away from people and things. It may seem strange, but some folks are actually afraid of these drones, so be mindful of your surroundings at all times.
Something else to know before you fly your drone: there are formal rules and regulations to follow that have been set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
For example, any drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs. needs to be registered (at a cost of $5.00). Learn more about drone regulation here.
For more info on all things drone, check out this great site.
Before we show you all of our favorite models, take a quick look at the table below for a good overview.
Buy it now
EACHINE E010 Mini
12 & up
GP-NextX H2O Aviax 2.4G 4CH 6-Axis 3D Water Resistant Drone
14 & up
Ohuhu RC Explorers 2.4G 4CH 6-Axis Gyro Quadcopter Drone with Camera
14 & min.
Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone
14 & up
UFO 3000 LED Drone Toy
14 & up
U45 Drone with HD Camera
14 & up
UDI 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera and
14 & up
Holy Stone F181 RC Quadcopter Drone
14 & up
U45 Blue Jay WiFi FPV Quadcopter Drone
14 & up
If you want every last detail on our favorite drones, keep reading!
It’s true that good things come in small packages! The Eachine E010 is a basic drone that will appeal to beginners. The durable propeller guards protect from crash landings so it’s a great model to use to hone basic skills.
This mini UFO can be flown in headless mode to the left, right, up and down and even perform a 360 degree flip. The control range extends to 30 meters. Although the battery lasts for only 5 or so minutes, it doesn’t take very long to recharge (about 30 – 50 minutes). For a longer flying time, we recommend buying extra batteries to have on hand.
In terms of troubleshooting, be sure to install parts properly and check that nothing is stuck in the motor (string, hair, lint etc.) before attempting to fly. (This holds true for all models.)
The coolest thing is the one-key return system. All you need to do is press one key and the drone will automatically fly to the remote control’s location.
This is a great starter drone for boys and girls. Although the manufacturer says it’s appropriate for 12 and up, we think younger kids could master the EACHINE E010’s simple maneuvers with a few supervised lessons. What’s more, the protective guards can withstand crash landings (within reason!).
The GP-NextX H2O Aviax is one of the first water resistant drones and just might be the least expensive model available. It’s perfect for kids who want to take the flying experience to a whole new level.
It’s important to keep in mind that water-resistant is not the same as waterproof. This H2O Aviax will work when submerged in up to 7 meters of water; it won’t fly in anything deeper than that. Whether it’s in the air or in the deep, the flight time remains the same (8 to 10 minutes) as does the control distance (up to 100 meters).
Like the others reviewed here, this quadocopter can run in headless mode and it can easily perform stunts like 360 degree flips. There are also LED lights that can be used when flying in the dark. Although no camera is included, you can purchase one separately and easily attach it.
Don’t believe a drone will work in water? See for yourself:
Of course, we love that we can fly this drone in the water, but there’s something else we love just as much: there’s a “cruise function” that allows the drone to remember a previous 40-second route and fly it again at the touch of a button.
We agree that this is one of the best drones for kids who are 14 years old or over. The inventive technology -- namely, the drone’s ability to function in water and in the air – makes this model a bit more complex to operate and control.
This is a streamlined, good-for-beginners drone. With a 6 axis gyro, it’s a stable flyer and relatively wind resistant. It flies in multiple directions both indoors and out and can perform tricks. The HD camera (2.0 MP) and 2 GB memory card are ready for sky-high photos and videos. The flight time of 7 minutes is average, as is the 90-100 minutes it takes to recharge the battery. (TIP: Allow the quadcopter to rest and cool down for 10 minutes before launching it back into the air with a fresh battery.)
This versatile quadcopter flies in headless mode, but you must first make sure there’s a proper signal flowing between the drone and transmitter. To do this, place the copter on the ground with the tail in front of the pilot – the nose of the copter will be in the “forward” direction – and then bind the signal. For best results, the pilot should maintain a forward-facing direction when flying the copter.
Ultimately, we were impressed with the simplicity of this copter. We appreciated that we could figure out right away how to get the drone in the air and all that we needed to get the hang of was manipulating the controller.
This seems like an ideal drone for 14 year olds and up, or any pilot who is content with a simple flying machine. The design is durable yet versatile (it performs tricks and evasions quite well) and the HD camera is a definite bonus. It does require a bit of practice to get the hang of the controller, so it may not be suitable for kids who are short on patience!
This may be one of the best drones for kids on the market in terms of durability and design.
With the Holy Stone HS170 Predator, looks may be deceiving! Although this is lightweight and delicate looking, it’s actually quite resistant and can be flown both indoors and outdoors. As the manual suggests, we do recommend that kids 14 years old and over use this under the supervision of an adult.
The drone is powered by 4 engines and the headless mode makes for easy maneuvering. At first, we were confused by the remote controller because it wasn’t clearly labeled, but after a few tries we got the hang of things and were impressed with the flight quality.
In fact, we had so much fun piloting the Hs170 that we recommend having a spare battery on hand so you can double your flying time.
To get a jumpstart on understanding this drone toy, check out this website.
We love that we can take this for a spin at night too! The colorful LED lights help young pilots to identify the front and the back so it’s possible to fly like an expert even in the dark.
This toy is ideal for kids who have had some previous experience with drones. We found the transmitter to be ultra responsive so it took a bit of practice before we could judge how the drone would respond. We imagine that younger kids would be easily frustrated.
You can fly this cool looking UFO toy in 3 different modes depending on whether you are indoors or outdoors and the existing conditions (for example, if there’s wind or not).
It’s a durable drone that flies well at high and low speeds and performs basic stunts at the touch of a button. You can amaze your friends with the awesome blue and green lights if you’re piloting at night.
The UFO 3000 has an average flight time of 5 – 7 minutes and a control distance of around 30 meters.
The package includes an extra lithium battery for extended play time, but be sure to purchase the batteries for the remote controller ahead of time. (NOTE: We weren’t able to find out what type of battery is needed for the controller.)
The fact that this drone is ultra lightweight and fast makes it perfect for stunts. In no time at all we had mastered flips. The cool lighting adds to the overall effect, especially when flying in the dark.
This is a great choice for both girls and boys who have never flown a drone before. Unlike others, this one doesn’t look too “boyish” nor does it cater specifically to girls. Instead, the green and blue lights are gender neutral as is the overall streamlined design.
Like others, it requires a bit of practice, but the low/high speeds help kids to get a hang of the controller. Although the manufacturer says the ideal age is 14+, we think with supervision, an 8 - 10 year old could safely manage to pilot the UFO 3000.
The outstanding feature on the U45 drone is the HD camera that can shoot aerial pictures. The camera captures photos and videos with a 2 MP camera and a 4 GB SanDisk Micro SD card.
As for the other features, this drone can be piloted in headless mode for easy maneuvering. There’s also an altitude hold system that allows the drone to hover at a certain height for an extended period of time (excellent for taking photos!). There’s a one-button take off and landing system, meaning that you can start and end your flights in the smoothest way possible.
The flight time and control distance are what we’ve come to expect from a quality toy drone: 8 minutes of flight time with a control distance of up to 100 meters. It takes close to 60 minutes to recharge the batteries. We loved the look of the LED lights – especially when we made the drone do flips and evasion moves!
Since we were so excited to take photos and videos during the flights, we loved the altitude hold function. At a touch of a button the drone would maintain a certain height so we could take pictures that were clear and focused.
Although some folks suggest a pilot of at least 14 years of age, we think this is suitable for ages 10 and up. The one-button take off and landing help to stabilize flights and allows a bit more time for young pilots to get a feel of controlling the toy drone.
The UDI 818A flies in headless mode on a powerful, stable motor. There are 2 flight modes to enjoy: one for beginners and casual flying and another for tricky stunts and evasion tactics.
The tough plastic frame protects the quadcopter in minor crashes. Average flights last between 7 – 9 minutes; recharging may take up to 120 minutes.
A small screen on the transmitter shows you the stats of your flight and an alarm will sound when the battery is running low and it’s time to bring in the copter to recharge. When it’s time to land, the “return home” function will direct the drone back to you.
With an extra battery, you’ll have even more time to enjoy the HD camera that takes high-resolution photos and videos (720p resolution; 30 FPS).
At the end of our flight, we were thrilled that we could direct the drone back to us with the “return home” function. It was the perfect way to cap off the adventure!
Our reviewers needed a bit of practice before they had the quadcopter flying like a pro. We struggled a bit with the 2 joysticks and it took a few tries before we could shoot clear videos and photos. That said, the learning curve should not stop enthusiasts (we suggest 12 years old and up) from enjoying what the UDI 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter has to offer.
Overall, our reviewers were very satisfied with this quadcopter. This is a durable toy drone that can handle minor crashes (especially with the extra protection frames) and light winds.
It has both beginner and “expert” flight modes and flies in headless mode for easy maneuvering. The control range is average – up to 100 meters – and the flight time is slightly more than we expected at 7 – 9 minutes. And when it’s time to land the F181, there’s a feature that will send the drone right back to the transmitter and you.
There’s a 2MP camera (records videos at 30 FPS and pictures at 720p resolution). One thing to note regarding the camera: the display screen on top of the transmitter does not show live video footage (as one of our reviewers expected). Instead, the small screen shows the battery strength, the speed of the drone and the status of the lights.
The package includes an extra battery so you can get twice as much air-time, but be sure to let the drone rest for about 10 minutes to cool down between flights.
We admit that we’re suckers for the lights – especially on this Holy Stone model. There are LED lights on the bottom of the drone that look especially cool against a night sky. In addition, there are blue lights on the front and red lights on the back. The two colors help novice pilots figure out the position of the drone and this makes controlling the flight path a whole lot easier.
This drone requires a bit of practice, so we’d say that any beginner over 12 could handle it. As stated above, the lights help to orient the quadcopter and the headless mode is a huge plus.
The camera quality is average as are the rest of the features. Our reviewers agreed that this would make an awesome gift for anyone who has expressed interest in toy drone technology.
For some reason, we weren’t able to learn all the facts about the U45 Blue Jay WiFi FPV Quadcopter. While there’s a bunch of information about the drone’s special features, there isn’t anything on the basic stats like flying time, control distance, or how long it takes to charge a battery.
The most exciting feature of the U45 Blue Jay is probably the First Person View WiFi and VR headset compatibility. This allows you watch a live feed of your flight adventure from your mobile device. Of all the toy drones we researched, this is the only one with that capacity.
In addition, the U45 Blue Jay has a few of the features we’ve come to love, including the one touch takeoff and landing, an altitude hold system, and an HD camera.
A cool feature is what’s called a “custom route mode” that lets you design a flight route on your mobile screen app that the Blue Jay will follow.
Since we don’t know several of the basic stats (like flight time etc.), it’s tough to say just who would enjoy this toy drone the most. But considering the sophistication of the HD camera and WiFi connectivity, we’d say that the Blue Jay would be appropriate for pilots around the age of 12 who are interested in expanding the flying experience to the VR world.
We’ve come along way from remote control cars.
Now remote control toys can fly in the air and through water, perform aerial stunts and obey our programmed demands. It’s no wonder then, that the best drones for kids are hot commodities this year. (For some more tech toy ideas, check out these other great articles here and here).
Our research shows that toy drones come in all sizes, shapes and price ranges and each model has special features. Therefore, it makes sense to consider all of your options before making a purchase.
There’s no doubt that toy drones will rise in popularity and they will most likely become more sophisticated over time. Considering this, we suggest getting in on the ground level – familiarize yourself with drone technology and the toys of the future today!
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