You may have already read Leo’s article about “Remote Control fun on land.”  Continuing our look at great tech toys, let’s take a look at hobby aircraft and drones. These have been gaining in popularity very rapidly and the technology involved keeps advancing every year so we’re seeing more variety than ever before. There is so much you can do with them and they range from simple affairs that provide a very basic level of functionality to high end models that have tremendous flexibility and professional grade power. Let’s take a look at just a few of the options out there to get an idea of what kind of variety is available and how broad the category has become in recent years.

10298795.jpgIf you just want an entry level flying toy there are a number of great inexpensive options available. This LiteHawk Impulse helicopter for example can give you a taste of basic omni-directional flight. If you’re a beginner then this is the perfect way to get started in the world of flying. The 3D Gyro stabilizer helps keep your flights smooth and easy to control. You have all the basic flight controls too; ascent, descent, forward, backward, turns, and revolving. This model is pretty safe, with break-away blades, and a strong CNC metal chassis so it’s safe enough for use indoors, while rugged enough to handle a few small bumps as you learn how to handle flight.

If you’re perhaps not quite sure you’re ready to take to the air or want something that can handle both air and land then you have a few options there too. The LiteHawk High Roller is a really small, yet agile quadcopter that can be used indoors or out, and features a fun high-impact-resistant roll cage to both protect the quadcopter as it flies, but also allows this to roll across the floor, up walls and even across the ceiling. Similarly the Parrot Rolling Spider can function both as an airborne quadcopter and as a maneuverable rolling vehicle. It has simple controls from an iOS and Android app, and has an onboard mini camera so you can experience flight through a first person aerial view.

10281386_7.jpgAs we move along the spectrum we start to approach the world of serious quadcopters. Something like the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 has app-based controls similar to the Rolling Spider we just looked at yet goes a lot further with a built in 720p 30fps HD camera, a great ‘director mode’ to let you pre-program automated choreography, optional map based control, and a nifty ‘return home’ mode that is one of my personal favorite features and any hobby aircraft. If you want to go beyond basic flight and toys and want something to let you capture footage from the air then this is the route you’ll want to take. You can do some great photography with one of these, since it lets you shoot in real-time from different, otherwise inaccessible points of view.

Of course it doesn’t stop there. If you want to get something a step above that, then consider something like the DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter. This model is for the more professional level pilots since it features an amazing 4K camera onboard, to help you capture gorgeous Ultra HD footage with real-time viewing. The flight system on this drone is very advanced too with fantastic autopilot to make takeoff and landing as easy as a button push. With an investment like this it is easy to worry but a nice feature here is the failsafe mode that detects a low battery or a pending connection loss to the remote, and will automatically return the drone back to its point of takeoff for a safe landing before disaster hits. This is one of the best integrated options out there for anybody looking for amazing aerial photography.

10361402.jpgIf that isn’t enough for you, consider the DJI Spreading Wings S900 Hexacopter. This is one of the most impressive options out there right now. This model is truly impressive. It is made to help you capture the best view with its lightweight and very powerful flight system capable of holding a camera to capture whatever you like. In fact this model can support almost five kilograms of added equipment in flight! This isn’t an integrated solution like the others so while there can be more involved with setup, it offers ultimate flexibility and versatility if you’re willing to put in the work. It even folds to make it as portable as possible and has carbon fiber arms.

Whether you’re after an entry level model for basic flight control, a professional grade high quality aerial camera rig, or something in between, there are plenty of options all along that spectrum for pilots of every skill level and budget. There are even plenty of hybrid land/air options to play with if you’re not quite ready to commit to an air vehicle quite yet. This sort of thing has never been more budget friendly and accessible. You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to control flight and enjoy the fun and power that these gadgets have to offer. It can seem intimidating to many, as people imagine that it can be very complicated to take to the skies, but the reality is that it is both easy and fun. There has never been a better time to take off. Just be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Drones before takeoff, to make sure you’re up to date with all the guidelines and applicable laws.

Raj Patel
I'm a writer, photographer, film producer, avid reader, gamer, architect, programmer, artist, community manager, and general nerd. You can visit my website