Qaudcopter/drone recommendations for a 12 year old novice?
February 1, 2017 10:41 AM   Subscribe

My daughter has expressed an interest in getting a drone. Looking for advice on what to get her.

She got an inexpensive quadcopter from Bed Bath and Beyond for Christmas and enjoyed the one time she got to fly it but the (proprietary) charger broke and the manufacturer was so overwhelmed with returns that it would take a month for them to even tell us when they could replace it. So back to the store it went. I thought I would try again with something a little nicer. I get the impression the Syma drones are a reasonable choice and they seem widely available with plenty of accessories like batteries and chargers. But I am open to any and all suggestions. Having an included camera would be nice but not required, the same goes for control via an iOS device. I'm pretty flexible as far as budget, but not looking to spend $500 right off the bat for something she may lose interest in after a few weeks. As always, thanks in advance for your help.
posted by TedW to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have this one. It doesn't break the bank and it is small enough that you can fly it inside or out. Also you can get additional batteries and a charger that will do 5 at once.
posted by o0dano0o at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2017

I've seen several out and about some starting at like $30. Those are usually cameraless. Saw some small cool ones at Brookstone right before Christmas. I'd go with inexpensive to practice with. Then when she gets the hang of it and doesn't loose interest, do the camera ones.
posted by PJMoore at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2017

Best answer: I have a Syma, (X5SC, I think?) and I fly it around every couple weeks, with some buddies who also have flying toys. It's a lot of fun. I've found it to be a perfect "learn to fly drones" drone. Plenty sturdy and not difficult to fly. Doesn't handle wind too well, but I don't think there's any in the price range that do.

I bought the version with the little camera that connects to your phone via Wi-Fi. Taking aerial pictures and video might be fun for her but I didn't find the quality to be worth the additional battery drain. It's detachable and wasn't much of an additional expense in any case.

It may be worth investing in extra batteries and a proper battery charger as well. I bought a cheap one and am considering replacing it because it's finicky.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2017

My experience with cheap drones is that they are really hard to fly and can become frustrating and turn people off. Given that your daughter is at the exact age when girls are likely to get frustrated/easily turned off this kind of stuff, I'd encourage you to go for something that's a little bit easier to fly out of the box.

I build drones for a living, but not consumer drones. I came into this as a total n00b. We have a Parrot Swing that we play with occasionally, and I find it pretty easy to learn. The Parrot drones, in general, seem to be extremely well-reviewed and my coworkers who fly drones for fun tend to be very fond of them.

If she's a Star Wars nerd, I also acquired one of the new Propel X-wing drones (they have a few other ships as well) - they're super geeky fun, they do barrel rolls at the touch of a button, and they have both an altitude-controlled easy flight mode as well as a "turn all the knobs and push all the buttons" advanced flight mode. If she has a friend with one, they also play drone laser tag in a reasonably sophisticated way. They're around $235 I think. It comes with two swappable batteries that charge off USB.
posted by olinerd at 1:04 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My cousin got a Syma X5SC for a gift and it seems more than fine. $50 with video and decent reviews is a fine place to start.

I don't support the soft bigotry of low expectations in getting something easier because she's a girl.
posted by rhizome at 1:39 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Blade Inductrix is all the rage in the micro brushed racing community right now. You can buy a stock RTF (that's "ready to fly," including a cheap transmitter, batteries, etc) for I think around $70. It's intended to fly indoors, and has ducts on the fan so there's less risk of chewing up cables or fingers. It's a solid, fun little piece of kit and since the hobby community is into it right now there are LOTS of spares available. Blade sells factory spares for everything, and every piece of it can also be upgraded, if that's your thing. There's a more expensive one that comes with a video camera, though I'd pass on that and do the mod people are calling "Tiny Whoop," which involves upgrading the motors and attaching a Horizon FPV camera for <$100 more. So if she decides she wants to go fast, that's an available option. If not it's still a perfectly fine thing to learn on, 100% stock.
posted by Alterscape at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh yeah, whatever you buy, get 4 or 5 batteries. They are cheap and it's much more fun to be able to swap and keep flying! I bought a board that I use to charge 6 simultaneously with the LiPo charger I use for my larger planes and helicopters, but just one or two extra USB chargers will get you there too!
posted by Alterscape at 1:55 PM on February 1, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for your help, everyone! I think any one of your suggestions would have worked fine. I didn't want a Propel, because that was the brand she got for Xmas that we had a bad experience with. Syma seemed to be the name I saw most often both here and elsewhere, so I went with that. I ordered an X5HW from Amazon; it looked nice but the remote would not connect with the copter and the LCD display never came on. Amazon promptly refunded my money and sent a return label, and since I was never able to get in touch with the third-party seller, I used my refund credit to buy the X5HW-I (which looks identical to me, other than the packaging) from another seller. This time, the package never arrived and based on the UPS description of where they left it, I have no idea where it ended up, but not at my house. Once again, Amazon credited my account, so I ordered the same thing again and this time it arrived and worked right out of the box! I had ordered extra batteries the first time around; that is definitely something to do. Anyway, it works great, the camera is a nice addition, and my daughter is outside flying it right now with a friend. I also bet there is an interesting article to be written on the supply chain for these things, as they seem to be coming directly from China, complete with instructions in pidgin English, and with a variety of sellers offering the same item under slightly different names. Anyway, it is a great alternative to sitting inside playing Minecraft all day. Thanks again!
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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