5 Things to Know if Your Kids Have a Drone

Dec 27, 2016

The biggest must-have toys of the holiday season were arguably drones. This is pretty weird, but not much weirder than, say, stuffies you hatch from eggs.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are basically small helicopters, sometimes outfitted with cameras, that you send soaring through the skies or command to do cool tricks via smartphones or special controls. You can take bird’s eye pictures or make action movies from above. They’re the logical evolution of RC hobby planes, but also like nothing you’ve experienced before.

Drones can be an exciting — and even educational — addition to your kid’s playtime. While you’re salivating over YouTube videos and still going through manuals to figure out how to fly them without crashing, here are five things to consider.

1. You should do your research and know the rules.

Drones come in a wide range of abilities and price points. The odds are against your daughter’s mini-quadcopter soaring into the upper regions of the atmosphere, but even ones marketed for kids can be dangerous if flown in the wrong places. In some cases, not following Transport Canada’s rules could mean huge fines and safety risks. There may also be municipal bylaws to think about, with regulations looking to get stricter. Yes, it’s unlikely your 10-year-old will get busted, but rules are in place for reasons, and you should make her aware of them.

Aside from learning laws, binge-reading posts on sites like Dronenthusiast and The Drone Girl can help you help your kids get the most out of their new high-flying buddy.

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2. With great flying power comes great responsibility.

Beyond official rules, it’s important to have talks with your kids about common-sense practices when it comes to safety — their own and others. This includes being mindful of surroundings (like trees, power lines and roads), respecting people’s privacy (no filming neighbours without permission), and not using your Parrot as a Predator.

Harvard’s Faine Greenwood has a great etiquette guide for Slate to get you started.

Also, if your kids are flying drones in a park or a public place, curious people are going to have questions or concerns (or want a turn). That’s why it’s a good idea to be with them.

3. Enough rules and responsibilities: These things are wicked-awesome toys and you should have FUN.

Put aside the coolness of the technology behind drones, and just think about how much of a good time this is. Your kids (and, let’s face it — you) are virtually piloting miniature flying objects through the air and performing barrel rolls. They’re taking pictures of your house from above, and filming friends tobogganing downhill from the perfect, moving point of view. THEY ARE REENACTING THE BEST SCENES IN STAR WARS.

We really like this list of suggested games to play, which ranges from drone races and I Spy to aerial acrobatic contests. While this is all happening, they’re also outside, getting exercise (probably), and improving their dexterity, hand/eye co-ordination and patience.

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4. Patience is a virtue — both for the kids and for you.

Drones improve patience? Yes. That’s because flying can require trial and error, a calm/steady hand, and a willingness to overcome the learning curve. At the same time, drones can also demand patience of parents. Kids crash and break their prized possessions, they lose components, get their quadcopters stuck in trees or on roofs, and/or suffer the consequences when their flying machines get wet in the rain. A decent drone, even a kid-level one, isn’t necessarily the cheapest, so you’ll have to be prepared for the worst.

Of course, if you like the idea of having a drone body that can be reassembled after it breaks, there’s always the LEGO route...

5. Think of the cool learning opportunities (without spoiling the fun).

Drone time can also mean several teachable moments with your kids. It’s a great opportunity to discuss how drones can be used beyond backyard fun and the more serious applications most often cited in the media (military and pizza delivery). There are implications ranging from disaster response to delivering supplies to Canadian communities.

Fostering an interest in drones could mean your child gets excited about the soon-to-be-multi-billion-dollar commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry. More immediately, though, it means using skills related to mapping, geometry, physics, engineering, photography, cinematography and coding. It’s not a big surprise people are examining how these tech-tool toys can be used to reinforce science lessons in a classroom. Edudemic also has some cool ideas on specific ways they can encourage learning without reducing fun.

So what’s the coolest thing your kids have done with a drone?

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.