There's a lot of cool stuff you can do with drones. Whether it's flying a tiny trinket over to your neighbor's house or getting those gorgeous aerial shots, let's face it, they're a ton of fun. But when it comes to the kids in our lives, we can be hesitant to hand over the controls of a $500 machine.
If you're a drone enthusiast, you probably know that few are designed to crash. While some drones in the $500 range can avoid obstacles and return home at the press of a button, you don't want to watch a super expensive machine get stuck in a tree. So, we decided to put together a list of affordable drones for kids.
1. This drone returns home at the press of a button
Our list starts off with the Eachine Mini Quadcopter Drone. It's nano drone, meaning it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Not only is it highly-rated on Amazon, headless mode lets you fly it regardless of orientation and one key return brings it back to the remote control. It also has a range of about 30 meters and you'll get around 5 minutes of flying time for every 30 minutes of charge time, which is pretty good charge to fly time ratio.
The one drawback is it doesn't hold a consistent altitude. In addition to mastering the controls, this third dimension makes it even more difficult. That being said, it's pretty cheap and it'll keep the kids occupied for quite some time, and if you’re going to teach them how to fly, why not challenge them a little, right?
2. This drone is pretty safe to fly indoors
Potensic is one of our favorites here at Reviewed (and with good reason!). On the surface, the Potensic A20W Mini Drone is basically the Eachine quadcopter from above. However, what's different about this one is the altitude hold feature and a front-facing camera (there’s also an option without the camera). As mentioned above, altitude hold makes it a lot easier to fly, especially indoors where there's a ceiling to contend with.
This drone comes with a bunch of awesome features, too. Headless mode aligns the drone's movements with the controller, and one key take off and landing ensures that the beginning and end of the flight are easy and safe. Plus, when paired with a smartphone, gravity induction mode allows you to control the drone by tilting your smartphone left and right.
3. You can't go wrong with a Holy Stone
The HS170 Predator is one of the smaller offerings, but at 14 centimeters per side, it’s still larger than the drones listed above. Despite there being no front-facing camera, it should work pretty well outside. It also has a control range of 30-50 meters and a flight time of about 6-8 minutes after about an hour of charging.
This drone has three different speeds, which makes it easier to learn. Thanks to the blade guards, it's fairly safe to handle and fly indoors. Plus, there’s the usual assortment of features you’ll see in this price category like headless mode and one-key flips. You know, the usual fun stuff. Between Holy Stone being a trustworthy brand and the low price point, you can't really go wrong here.
4. This unusual drone can climb ceilings
The Rolling Spider Drone from Parrot is one of the more interesting items on this list, as it has a unique way of getting around. Not only is this a quadcopter, it also has giant wheels. That means it can roll around on the floor, along walls, or across the ceiling. Instead of relying on piloting ability to navigate around the floor, you can overcompensate and use the wheels to your advantage.
If you remove the wheels, you'll still have a great drone that you can fly anyway, though we'd probably recommend keeping it indoors. There's a camera on board, too, so photos and videos are possible.
It doesn't come with a controller, so you’ll have to use your smartphone to control it, meaning your range will be limited. It's not the best way to pilot a drone, as flying is challenging enough even when you have tactile feedback from the controller in your hands.
5. For the accident-prone
Here’s another interesting design idea for a mini quadcopter. Haktoys has enclosed the HAK901 Mini R/C Drone in a four-inch soccer-ball style protective frame. This keeps it safe from crashes and obstacles. It also keeps little fingers safe from the blades on the quad.
Speaking of little fingers, according to reviews, you might need little fingers to properly insert and remove the battery, so keep that in mind. But overall, this is a great idea that should help your drone last longer than other.
This drone does lack some of the features that we typically see in this price category, headless mode and a proper camera being two of the big ones. In this price range, flight time is at a premium, and at 5-7 minutes, that’s pretty typical. Adding a camera may reduce the flight time due to weight or camera use, so it’s understandable why the trade off was made.
All told, if safety is your number one goal, this is going to be a great option for you. You get all the maneuverability you want in a small drone, and save yourself some scuffs on the walls and furniture.
6. This novelty drone is perfect for the die-hard Star Wars fan
And here's where we get into novelty drones. Remember the speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi? This drone recreates that vehicle with four extra arms and propellers. You may need to use a little bit of suspension of disbelief, but if you squint your eyes just right, you can see a speeder bike zipping through the trees, just like they did on the forest moon.
Like most Air Hogs craft, the Air Hogs Speeder Bike Drone is made of foam, which is light and durable. If you plow headlong into a tree, like those stormtroopers did with alarming frequency, it's possible you may damage the drone. Also, with a range of only 200 feet, you won’t be zipping through the trees for very long before you have to turn back. But otherwise the sheer novelty here is the main driver.
This isn't the only Star Wars-themed flyer in the Air Hogs lineup, but it’s the one we felt best fit into this category of flyer. You can also check out the Millennium Falcon, the X-Wing fighter, the TIE fighter, and the Star Destroyer. Regardless of your choice, you’ll certainly be thinking to yourself, “We’re all clear kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home.” Or wait. Maybe not.
7. This drone drives like a car
Next on the novelty block we have the Syma X9 Gyro car, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a drone that can also drive like a car. Don’t we all wish we had car that could do this? Good-bye, traffic jams. It has both a car mode and a drone mode, and you can seamlessly switch between them depending on your needs. On the drone side of things, this is very much an operational drone, flips and everything.
If you've ever wanted to dive into the world of RC cars, this might be a good way to go. Obviously, a car driving on the ground will be less prone to crashing and damage, while a drone gives you the ability to fly and flip. Plus, as an added bonus, this drone comes with an extra battery so you can double your flight time (which is an admittedly short 5 minutes).
8. Hate cleaning up? This drone folds up into a case
Next up, we have another offering from Eachine. This is one of the cooler drones on the list for a few different reasons. For one, it actually folds up into a nice little carrying case (included), along with the charger and controller. This is great if you hate cleaning up.
The controller is unique too, as it's a one-handed design with a joystick. Motion is controlled with a g-sensor that senses the controller’s tilt. Tilt forward to move the drone forward, backward to go back, and so on. It’s pretty intuitive.
This drone doesn’t have cages around the blades, so safety is a bit of a concern. Aside from this drawback, it's a solid purchase. You can connect to a smartphone for more traditional flying, and it even has a camera and a light for flying in the dark.
9. Like games? This drone comes with a set of objectives
This last entry gets an honorable mention, despite the fact that it’s not a quadcopter in the traditional sense. We're big fans of Air Hogs flyers, and this is a helicopter that's easy to control. Plus, it comes with a whole package of “missions” and targets that you can use to fly cargo to various places, or even winch up cargo onto the copter. The missions range from rescue, to recon, to cargo transport.
Air Hogs helicopters provide really solid and stable flight, making them easy to learn for beginners like the little ones in your life. The controls are intuitive, and the copters travel at a slower speed, so they’re easier to control than their quadcopter counterparts. If you’re not convinced that a quadcopter is the way to go, it’s hard to do wrong with an Air Hogs helicopter.