Drones for Kids? The Youth Market is Booming

Marketers know that kids are an important demographic. Kids have purchasing power in their own right but they also influence their parents’ buying decisions – and they’re tomorrow’s adult consumers.  Reach them early and they’ll be buying your brand for years.  Do the same basic marketing principles apply to drones?  You bet they do. With drones entering the commercial mainstream, the  kids’ market has begun booming. Children as young as two years old are obtaining tiny plastic drones that can fly for just a minute or two.  Older kids and young adults are receiving sturdier, more flight-worthy drones as birthday or Xmas presents.  Their parents hope the gift might stimulate their interest in Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM) topics in school.

Many retailers aren’t quite sure how to classify drones for kids, and how to advertise them.  Are they really just toys, especially those aimed at tots?  Or are they hi-tech electronics products to be sold alongside computers?  In which kind of store or store aisle do they belong?  Some of the kids’ drones are remarkably inexpensive – about $20.  Others aimed at older adults might run as high as $400-$500.  The variety of drones and price points seems calculated to reach every age and income niche.   When it comes to drones, marketers have adopted an all-inclusive sales strategy:  Call it: “No child left behind.”

Some drones are better suited to indoor use.  Outdoors, the slightest breeze might cause them to crash.  One of the best-selling indoor drones is the “Tello.”  It comes equipped with a 5-megapixel camera that shoots 720p video.  In flight, it lasts about 13 minutes. Ryze, the company that built the Tello, has equipped it with the ability to code, which means users can pre-program their flights. It can also be maneuvered with hand gestures.  For more sophisticated remote piloting, a separate RCP device is needed.  The Tello retails for about $99.

A more versatile indoor drone might be the DJI-Mini 2.  It also has a 5-megapixel camera that shoots 720p video. But it can stay airborne for 33 minutes, which gives you a lot more flight imagery.  With its 12-inch wingspan, it’s steadier in outdoor conditions but still narrow enough to be flown through most doorways and windows.  Most models come with attachable propeller guards to minimize damage to interior walls and furniture.  But this UAVs isn’t cheap:  it retails, on average, for about $450. Outdoor drones – some with much greater functionality – are not necessarily more expensive.  It depends on the manufacturer.

One possible choice is the Holy Stone GPS Drone equipped with a 1080P HD Camera.  It  typically retails for less than $200. It’s considered a beginner’s model for adults and kids alike.  It shoots FPV live video that can be easily downloaded and shared on social media.  You can pre-program custom flight paths but the drone also has a “home return” feature that allows it to come back to the user if remote contact is lost.

Some drone companies are making special efforts to market their products to young girls and minorities.  The website “Drone Girl” features an African-American father enjoying drone use with his two young daughters.  Drone use for girls is supposed to be adventurous and empowering.  The website’s female model hawks everything from racing UAVs to commemorative “Star Wars” drones.  There’s even a new website called “Black Girls Drone.”

One new marketing and educational campaign aimed at youth is the establishment of summer “drone camps.”  Instead of the usual assortment of boating and swimming activities, the attendees learn how to build gliders, fly fixed-wing drones, pilot UAVs in a simulator and use code to control a quadcopter. At one three-day camp in Idaho, the summer program ends with a drone jousting contest.

Summer drone camps are often kids’ first exposure to aviation.  In addition to being fun, the camps teach their students basic principles of lift and thrust.  Older kids might use the camp experience to begin preparing for a growing number of aviation degrees and certificates. The rapid growth of these “drobot” camps – 15 or more in the Mid-Atlantic region between Philadelphia and Norfolk, VA alone – illustrates how the youth market for drones is being integrated into education and career development.  Industry recognizes that more trained drone pilots and engineers will be needed in the years ahead in a growing number of sectors.  The Black Girls Drone site makes this connection explicit:  “We use drones as a vehicle to pioneer the future of next-gen aero-tech professionals.”  Make no mistake:  Drone-wielding kids aren’t just learning to fly 21st century “kites.”  They’re getting ready to navigate the skies for real.

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