Do your children want a drone because their friends own one? Drones are must-have gadgets today but there are some vital aspects to keep in mind before buying one for your children.
By Divya Sreedharan
Vishal’s 10th birthday is coming up. And he has his heart set on a drone.
“My best friend Rahul already has one,” he protests when his parents try to dissuade him. Vishal’s parents are in a dilemma. While they don’t want to deny their child what he wants, especially on his birthday, they think he is too young to own a drone. And they are really not sure whether they should buy him one.
What do you think Vishal’s parents should do? For that matter, have you thought about how you will respond if your own child hankers after one? After all, drones are extremely popular today. These are available in most toy shops and can be easily bought online, too. But there are some important things to consider before buying your child a drone.
Know what drones are: So, what are drones? These are basically unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, of any size, design, weight or type. These can be flown or operated via remote control from the ground. Drones can fly for a specified distance or time period and then, are meant to return to the starting point or the operator. Drones were originally meant for military purposes, but today these are used in agriculture, construction, land survey, wedding photography and even, door-to-door delivery of items.
The boom in 'toy' drones: Today, youngsters find it a thrill to own and fly their own drones. Drone flying is a growing hobby as well. Enthusiasts fly them indoors as well as outdoors. But how long a drone will stay in the air depends on certain factors. A small basic drone for example, will have a battery that may need charging for 30–50 minutes. The drone itself will then have a flying time of five minutes. This will be mentioned in the product specifications. Also, keep in mind that there are many kinds of drones available today, made of metal or plastic, and as DIY (do it yourself) models or ready-to-assemble ones. Most drones are also very reasonably priced. Naturally, a drone is the must-have item for adolescents and older children.
Are drones legal? Thinking of buying a drone for your child? Well, first ask yourself whether it is legal to fly one. In India, anything to do with flying or aviation, comes under the ambit of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). According to The Better India, the DGCA has divided drones into five categories based on their Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW):
1. Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams
2. Micro: Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg
3. Mini: Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg
4. Small: Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg
5. Large: Greater than 150 kg
It is advisable to buy your child a drone that comes under the ‘Nano’ category. If you are using it for 'recreational purposes', then there is no need to get licences or permissions from various authorities, to operate the drone. 'Recreational' means that flying the drone is a hobby, it is not being used for any other purpose. But, says technology site Beebom.com, “if the drone comes under Mini or other categories, you will need several permissions, including permissions from the police, flight path authorisation, and more.” If your child owns a drone in any of these categories, it will be illegal to fly it, without getting the necessary permissions or licences.
Are drones dangerous: Operating a drone, even a small one, requires hand-eye coordination, quick thinking and reflexes. Also, drones need to be carefully handled. Hence, there are some factors to keep in mind — the age of the child; her ability to operate the drone; where, when and how it will be used and finally; the type of drone being used. It is considered inadvisable to let children younger than eight years of age fly or operate drones. Very young children may put small parts in their mouth, or injure themselves on the drone mechanism, rotor blades, and so on. With older children, too, it is better to be careful. It is best to buy a drone meant for indoor use only, or one with limited flying time. And remember, there must be parental supervision at all times.
Security and privacy risks: Today, drones come with or, can be fitted with, cameras to take both photos and videos — yes, even the ‘toy’ or nano-sized ones. This means, there are both security and privacy risks attached to these gadgets. There are possibilities of misusing drones for spying. Also, if you live in a crowded neighbourhood, a drone can even cause widespread panic. And keep in mind that drones are not allowed in certain no-fly or restricted zones. These sensitive areas include: airports, defence installations, and “places falling under 50 km from international borders, beyond 500 m from the sea coast, within 5 km from Vijay Chowk, India Gate, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and more,” explains technology site Beebom.com.
Drones and other safety risks: Many parents think it is easy to fly a drone. Not really. Today, there are many institutes across India that train drone enthusiasts in safely piloting and operating drones. According to a spokesperson from one such institute, the Indian Institute of Drones, parents should not think that drones are mere playthings.
“The child must know how to operate the drone properly and needs adult guidance in doing so. For instance, if the drone is flown for a long time, beyond the battery life or, if the battery gets drained, the drone can fall out of the sky. So yes, drones do often crash. If your child is flying it outdoors, it can even fall on somebody and cause grievous injury. What’s more, it can even cause an accident, or the child can get hurt himself,” the spokesperson adds.
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