Spring has sprung! Well, actually, spring is still cowering in…
Forget apes. Welcome to the rise of the planet of the drones. Because these things are about to be everywhere.
I say this based on recent experience with one drone in particular, the Hubsan X4. Actually, it’s a radio-controlled quad-copter, but “drone” is easier to say and type, so I’m going with that.
The X4 is not like those wussy Syma RC helicopters you’ve probably seen in recent years. Those little toys are cool, and surprisingly inexpensive, but they offer limited maneuverability and can barely operate outdoors. The slightest breeze sends them drifting away, usually into the nearest tree or shrubbery.
No, this is a totally different animal. The X4 moves, whether you’re rocketing it skyward or careening it across a field. It’s way faster than you’d expect such a small flying machine to be–and, consequently, insanely fun to pilot. Plus, it has a range of about 100 meters, or 300 feet, meaning you can fly it far enough away that you practically lose sight of it. (It’s really small, measuring only about four inches by four inches.)
Hubsan offers a couple different versions of the X4, starting with the H107L. You can find this on Amazon for around $36, a price that includes the dual-stick controller. That’s just an amazing deal for such a fun piece of RC gear.
However, consider spending a bit more for the H107C (about $53 on Amazon), which has a built-in camera for recording aerial video. Or, better still, splurge on the upgraded H107C (about $79) and get an HD camera. (Here’s a sample of some video shot with the ‘copter.) You’ll need to bring your own microSD card to capture footage, but they’re cheap–no more than about $15 for a 16GB card.
Whatever model you end up with, the flying experience rocks. And have no fear about taking the X4 outside–not just because it benefits from having lots of room to maneuver, but because it stands up to light winds just fine. It can also survive crashes, at least on grass, as I discovered the hard way several times. The blades will pop loose to help minimize damage, and it’s a simple matter to pop them back on again.
As you might expect based on its size, the X4’s battery isn’t great–it lasts about 7-8 minutes, so I definitely recommend picking up a couple extras. Thankfully, they’re cheap, as are replacement parts.
Because I’m out flying this thing all the time, I’ve had the chance to show it to lots of onlookers. The reaction is always the same: “Wow!” Followed by: “How much?” And no one believes me when I say it starts at about $35. That’s why I think these are going to be huge sellers, and probably one of the top gift items of the 2014 holiday season.
I should mention that because the X4 is so quick and so powerful, it’s not a good choice for younger kids. Indeed, I’d say a pilot should be at least 9-10 years old, and even then some practice over soft grass is essential.
But forget the kids: This is the ultimate toy for gadget-loving grown-ups. The Hubsan X4 quad-copter is fast, fun, and affordable, and by far my favorite plaything so far this year.