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3 November 2021

Drones for kids

Kids' drones are a popular toy, but we had some surprising results when we tested them. Find out what you need to know before buying a drone as a gift for your child.
Joel Bates
Kid flying a drone

Drones for kids are becoming increasingly popular toys, but you'll want to make sure the one you buy is safe, secure and well built before putting the controller in the hands of a child.

In September 2021, we tested eight of the most popular drones that cost less than £100 and are listed as toys or for kids.

If drones weigh less than 250g they're considered small enough to be toys and don't require a drone licence to fly them in the UK. However, you can't fly drones of any kind within 5km of an airport, no matter how light or small they are.

We were disappointed to find that none of the drones we tested were especially high quality or risk-free in the opinion of our tester, so we don't recommend any of those listed below. 

Read on for our full test results, plus an explanation of the risks parents should be aware of before buying kids' drones.

Prices and availability last checked: 3 November 2021.


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Are kids' drones safe?

Physical safety

All the drones we tested came with propeller guards to reduce the chance of injury, should a drone fly into an adult or child during use.

However, almost all the propeller guards on the drones we tested either don't cover the propellers sufficiently, or are made of such flimsy plastic that they easily bend when they come into contact with something.

Parents who buy these drones for their kids should carefully look at the size and structure of the propeller guards, and decide if they provide adequate protection from accidental injury during use. 

Bear in mind that a lot of these drones drift, which means they can suddenly and unintentionally go in a different direction.

Internet safety

Several of the drones we tested have a built-in camera for taking photos and videos during a flight. In order to capture these photos and videos, the drones need to connect to your smartphone via a companion app.

These apps can even give you a live feed from the point of view of the camera and let you control the drone using just your phone.

However, we were concerned to spot seemingly unsecure networks and a lack of privacy information across several of these apps.

We're currently undertaking rigorous internet security tests at our labs to find out if these drones sufficiently protect your child online, and will update this page with our findings as soon as we can.

Kids' drones test results

Here's what we thought of the drones we tested, listed alphabetically.

4DRC RCV2

Cheapest price: £40.99 at Amazon

Pros: Portable design, comes with spare batteries

Cons: Suffers badly from drift, difficult to control at range, poorly labelled, app didn't work for us

Our verdict: Although compact and portable, the 4DRC RCV2 has some major problems with flight control and app connectivity.

You'll need to take a bit of time to pore over the instructions before attempting to fly the drone, as it isn't obvious what each button on the controller does.

Once we had a fuller understanding of the controls and had some practice getting used to them, we had no problems using the controller, but it is rather chunky. Some smaller children might have trouble pressing the buttons.

The RCV2 has three speed settings, but even on the slowest setting we found the drone suffered badly from drift. The tilting controls did little to solve the problem and we found it impossible to get the drone to hover without it drifting off in a random direction.

Once the drone was further than 3-4 metres away from the controller it became even more unruly. Because of this, several of our test flights ended in crash landings.

This drone has some benefits that aren't related to flight: it's very compact and the arms fold away neatly. There's even a small compartment on the controller for you to store the folded drone when it's not in use.

It comes with two spare batteries, so if you charge them all fully you should get around half an hour's collective flight time.

We can't comment on the quality of the built-in camera, as although we were able to connect to the drone's wi-fi signal, the 4D FLY app was unable to recognise the drone or display a live feed from the camera.

Size and weight: 4.5 x 9.5 x 9.5cm (H x W x D); 50g

Stated range: 50 metres

Stated battery life: 10 mins

Stated charging time: 60 mins

Batteries required for controller: 2 x AAA (not included)

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: 720p camera, automatic take-off/landing, smartphone controlled (app required), 2 x spare batteries, battery charging dock, 4 x propeller guards, 4 x spare propellers, adjustable smartphone holder, mini screwdriver

Avialogic Q9s drone

Avialogic Q9s

Cheapest price: £39.99 at Amazon

Pros: Best propeller guards on test, high level of control at close range, fun tricks

Cons: Suffers from drift under the slightest breeze, short range

Our verdict: If you're keen to buy one of the drones listed here that doesn't have a built-in camera, this is the one we'd choose.

The controller is small and well sized for kids' hands, and the buttons are helpfully labelled. It didn't take us long to work out how to control this drone.

It hovers well after an automatic take-off and is responsive to the controls, allowing us to manoeuvre it intricately.

The Q9s has stunt controls allowing you to do fun flips at the push of button. It has bright green and blue LED light rings around each propeller, and you can change the light patterns during flights.

The tilting controls help when it starts to drift, but as the drone is so light, the slightest breeze can send it off in an unintended direction. When the weather was completely calm, though, we had few issues.

As with many of the drones we tested, this one became harder to control the further away it got from us. At about 10 metres we felt the drone starting to take on a mind of its own.

This drone and several others in our test have a headless mode, which means no matter which way the drone is facing, it will always move in relation to the controller. This can be helpful for beginners as it makes the drone easier to control.

Unlike almost every other drone we tested, the Avialogic Q9s has tough built-in propeller guards which give good protection against contact with the propellers in the event of a crash. We crashed it into a brick wall at full speed and found barely any damage to the drone.

These propeller guards only provide protection at a horizontal angle, however, so fingers that poke the propellers from above or below are still likely to get hurt.

Size and weight: 5 x 17.5 x 17.5cm (H x W x D); 69g

Stated range: 60 metres

Stated battery life: 8 mins

Stated charging time: 55 mins

Batteries required for controller: 3 x AAA (not included)

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: Automatic take-off/landing, headless mode, variable speed, 3 x LED light display settings, stunt mode

DEERC D20 Mini

DEERC D20 Mini

Cheapest price: 40.99 at Amazon

Pros: High level of control, fun tricks

Cons: Propeller guards provide minimal protection, drifts up and down

Our verdict: Although we were shocked at how little protection was provided by the propeller guards, the DEERC D20 Mini was one of the better drones to fly out of those we tested.

We liked the controller of this drone best, as its size and proportions suit both kids' hands and adults' hands, and it's clearly labelled and easy to use.

In flight we found it highly reactive, almost too much so - just a slight movement of the joystick to the left caused the drone to jerk in that direction.

Like many other drones we tested, the D20 is prone to drifting, although rather than drifting off to the side it tends to drift up or down. This is a better problem to have than a sideways drift, though, as the drone will at least stay in the same area.

We found the D20 fun to fly and easy to control, and the stunt flips add extra excitement to the experience.

The live point-of-view stream from the drone's camera to your smartphone works well, although the video quality isn't much to shout about and you'll have to put up with some input lag, which brings a delay between you actioning something on the controller and the drone responding.

Input lag was especially present when operating the drone at a distance.

Size and weight: 4.3 x 16.2 x 19.6cm; 69g

Stated range: 40 metres

Stated battery life: 10 mins

Stated charging time: 80 mins

Batteries required for controller: 3 x AA (not included)

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: 720p camera, automatic take-off/landing, foldable, smartphone controlled (app required), live camera view, headless mode, variable speed, stunt mode

Hasakee H6

Cheapest price: £26.99 at Amazon

Pros: Portable design, high level of control at close range, fun tricks

Cons: Suffers from drift under the slightest breeze, poorly labelled, short range

Our verdict: We found the Hasakee H6 fun to fly, but only when the weather was completely still and the drone was close by.

Similar in build to the 4DRC RCV2, the Hasakee H6 is a tiny drone with foldable arms and three speed settings. It doesn't have a built-in camera.

Although we found the controller a good size for kids' hands, we think the labelling is unclear. You'll likely need to familiarise yourself with the instructions before your first flight.

In flight we found the H6 easy to manoeuvre and thought the flips it could do in mid-air were fun, although we found ourselves regularly using the trim controls to battle with drift.

As it's so light, at 27g, the gentlest breeze takes this drone off in an unintended direction, so you should expect to have some control issues even on the calmest days.

Like many of the other drones we tested, the level of control deteriorated the further away the drone got from the controller.

In our durability testing we also found that crashing the H6 into a wall caused one of the propellers to come off. This was with the propeller guards on, which demonstrates how little the guards will protect the propellers - or any objects the drone hits.

Size and weight: 3.6 x 10.5 x 12.5cm; 27g

Stated range: 50 metres

Stated battery life: 10 mins

Stated charging time: 40 mins

Batteries required for controller: 3 x AAA (not included)

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: Automatic take-off/landing, foldable, headless mode, variable speed, stunt mode

Proflight D15 PFDB301

Cheapest price: £54.97 at Drones Direct

Pros: Longest battery life of those we tested, clearly labelled

Cons: Suffers badly from from drift, propeller guards provide minimal protection

Our verdict: Our tester found the Proflight D15 PFDB301 suffered badly from drift during use, which greatly limited the fun you could have while flying it.

This was one of the largest beginner drones we tested, measuring more than 30cm from one end to the other. It does fold up, but only if you remove the propeller guards and arrange the propellers in a specific way.

We also felt the controller was too large for smaller hands to use comfortably, although it was easy to tell what the different buttons did thanks to clear labelling.

Although you should get 17 minutes of flight time, which is a decent amount, we found this drone struggled severely with drift.

The moment we took off, it often chose its own direction to fly off in, and the trim controls and joysticks did little to help. This lack of control ultimately limited the fun we could have with it. Even under the calmest conditions this drone flew away as though caught in a gale.

We managed to pair this drone with a smartphone using the YX WIFI app, but weren't able to sufficiently test the quality of the live camera feed because of the difficulties we had flying the drone in the first place.

Despite having some of the largest propellers, the Proflight D15 PFDB301 also had some of the flimsiest propeller guards of those we tested. We were able to fold them in half using two fingers.

Size and weight: 6.4 x 33.2 x 37.2cm (H x W x D); 179g

Stated range: 80 metres

Stated battery life: 17 mins

Stated charging time: 180 mins

Batteries required for controller: 4 x AAA

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: 1080p camera, automatic take-off/landing, foldable, micro-SD port, smartphone controlled (app required), live camera view, headless mode, variable speed, stunt mode

Ryze Tello powered by DJI

Cheapest price: £99 at Amazon, Argos, Currys, Drones Direct

Pros: High level of control, fun tricks, broad range of features

Cons: Suffers from input lag at a distance, no controller included

Our verdict: Although not perfect, the Ryze Tello powered by DJI is the best drone we tested.

It doesn't come with a controller included, and there are no official ones available. However, you can pair it with a range of third-party Bluetooth controllers.

We tested the Ryze Tello by controlling it via the Tello smartphone app, and found it brilliant to fly and control, especially at close range.

Take-off and landing were smooth, it hovered perfectly as long as there wasn't a strong breeze, and the in-flight controls felt responsive and intricate.

The app has a variety of fun flight settings and modes to play with. As well as swiping in the direction you'd like the drone to flip, you can initiate manoeuvres including flying the drone in a perfect ring and landing it on your outstretched hand.

However, the further this drone got from our smartphone, the more it suffered from input lag. The smartphone app will warn you when the drone is getting too far away, though, so you'll be prompted when you need to move closer.

The drone also carries out a controlled landing when it's low on battery to avoid a crash landing.

We were able to record video during flights, but the result was often pixelated and prone to skipping.

Surprisingly, this drone doesn't have headless mode, despite being the most technologically advanced and expensive drone we tested.

The Ryze Tello won't be for everyone – some might prefer a drone without a camera, and might be put off by how much it relies on using a smartphone app – but this was the one our tester enjoyed flying the most.

Size and weight: 5 x 23 x 20cm (H x W x D); 80g

Stated range: 100 metres

Stated battery life: 13 mins

Stated charging time: 90 mins

Batteries required for controller: N/a (no controller included)

Age rating: 14+

Other key features: 720p camera, automatic take-off/landing, smartphone controlled (app required), live camera view, five flight modes, stunt mode, variable speed

Smyths Aerial Quadcopter Drone Black

Cheapest price: £29.99 at Smyths

Pros: Does tricks

Cons: Low level of control, poorly labelled, controller is too big for children's hands

Our verdict: We found this drone was only really capable of going up vertically, doing a trick and coming back down.

You need to push joystick throttle of the Aerial Quadcopter Drone constantly, as it's seemingly unable to hover. This means you'll use the tilting controls very little, as you'll always be preoccupied with travelling either up or down.

Along with the Proflight D15 PFBD301, this is one of the larger kids' drones we tested. Although it's sold as a toy, we think the controller is far too bulky for kids to use.

And despite its high-tech appearance, the controller is also poorly labelled, with no indication as to what any of the buttons do. You'll need to consult the instructions and memorise their functions.

There's no built-in camera on this model, which will appeal to some, and you can do flips with it - but that's it. Despite its billing as a stunt drone, this one seems to have no more strings to its bow than most of the other drones we tested.

Size and weight: 5 x 32 x 32cm (H x W x D); 92g

Stated range: 50 metres

Stated battery life: 6 mins

Stated charging time: 65 mins

Batteries required for controller: 6 x AA

Age rating: 10+

Other key features: Automatic take-off/landing, headless mode, variable speed, stunt mode

Smyths Stunt Streaming Drone

Cheapest price: £24.99 at Smyths

Pros: Controller is a good size for children's hands

Cons: Low level of control, poorly labelled, app didn't work for us

Our verdict: As with the other Smyths drone we tested, the throttle of the Stunt Streaming Drone needs constant attention, meaning you can't fly it for more than a few seconds at a time.

You'll need to consult the instructions before use, as the controller isn't very well labelled. It's a good size for kids' hands, though.

There's no indicator light when charging this drone, so you'll have to guess when you think the battery is fully charged.

We found this drone frustrating to fly for the same reasons as the Smyths Stunt Streaming Drone. The drone is unable to hover, meaning there's very little you can do besides go up and down.

The directional controls worked fine for us, but because you're constantly either shooting upwards or dropping down, there's no real opportunity to fly in a sideways direction.

Although there's a built-in camera and an accompanying smartphone app for providing a live camera view, we were unable to successfully pair the drone with the app.

Size and weight: 3.6 x 16 x 15.4cm (H x W x D); 40g

Stated range: 50 metres

Stated battery life: 6 mins

Stated charging time: 65 mins

Batteries required for controller: 4 x AA

Age rating: 8+

Other key features: Automatic take-off/landing, smartphone controlled (app required), live camera view, headless mode, variable speed, stunt mode

How we tested drones for kids

We selected eight bestselling drones that were either sold as kids' toys or aimed at children, and tried them all to find which drones are well built, easy to control and fun to fly.

We bought all the drones we tested and are unbiased in reporting our findings to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to buy one for your kids.

Ease of using controller

We assessed the size and shape of each controller to see if children would have any difficulties handling the controls or pressing the buttons, and looked for any design elements that might make it harder to use the drone, such as loose joysticks or stuck buttons.

We also judged how clearly labelled the controllers were, praising those that had clear words or symbols to indicate what the buttons did.

Flight testing

The key elements that make up a good or bad drone are how easy it is to control and how smoothly it flies.

As all the drones we tested are aimed at children and beginners, we assessed how responsive the drone was to use of the controller, and how straightforward it was to do simple manoeuvres such as taking off and landing, hovering and turning.

We also looked out for any difficulties that crept in during a flight, for example drift, how susceptible to wind interference the drone is, and whether it becomes harder to control as it gets further away from you.

Durability

Especially when kids are playing with drones, the likelihood of one or two crash landings is high. To test how well each drone stands up to a hard impact, we flew each one at full speed into a brick wall and inspected it for damage.

Considering an alternative remote-controlled toy for your kids? See our top remote control cars.

Five things we learned testing kids' drones

  1. Kids' drones, which are all under 250g in order to avoid the requirement for a licence, are highly susceptible to wind interference. During testing, often even the slightest breeze sent the drones off in an unplanned direction.
  2. The built-in cameras on the drones we tested generally produced low-quality footage. They might have HD capabilities, but the footage itself is often subject to heavy distortion and glitching.
  3. You’re unlikely to find a kids' drone with a battery that lasts longer than 10 minutes, although many do come with spares which, if charged, will help to make playtime longer.
  4. When controlling the drone with a smartphone, the operating range is significantly shorter and input lag is likely to have a negative impact on your flight experience.
  5. After crash landing (even softly on the grass), many of the drones we tested need to be reset and re-calibrated before they’ll take off again.

Compare our reviews of kids cameras.