Cool Tech for Your Commission Check: RC Quadricopters

Cullen MacDonald
February 25, 2015

I grew up always wanting a gas-powered remote control airplane. At the hardware store, they had these free magazines full of different airplane kits and parts, and I was obsessed with the idea of building my own plane. Needless to say, these dreams never materialized. I suppose my parents were wise not to give a 10-year-old a flying internal combustion engine. I semi-forgot about those remote control planes until I found myself in a Brookstone four or five years ago. By then, cheaper RC vehicle options had come to the American market from Asia, and they had a remote control helicopter for $70. That flash of being a kid came rushing back, and I bought it. With the barrier to entry thus lowered, flying RC devices is actually a growing hobby, so much so that the FAA is looking to regulate them. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of flying a helicopter? The next plot point of this story is the emergence of quadricopters--remote control helicopters with four rotors, ranging in size from a few inches across to about the width of a large pizza box. As I suspected, these were much easier to control and maneuver. They’re a much more stable design, and though they’re a little difficult to get the hang of at first, you’ll find it’s a great way to have fun and relax. Here are a couple recommendations to choose from.

The Entry-Level Option: Blade Nano QX RTF w/ SAFE Technology

If you’re interested in testing the waters (or air...ha) to see if this might be a hobby for you, the Blade Nano QX is a great option. At about $90, the biggest benefit is that it’s a great value for the price. This model is very small (about the size of your hand) and sturdy for its size, so that you can fly it in almost any indoor environment. It also includes stability and agility modes, so that you can gradually build up your confidence with flying it. Stability mode keeps the helicopter upright, while agility mode will allow you to do more complicated aerobatic maneuvers. Another great feature is its sensor-assisted flight, which will help prevent crashes. Maybe best of all, it includes extra parts, so when you inevitably crash it into a tree or wall, you’ll be able to fix it pretty easily. It comes with a rechargeable battery and charger, so all you need to do is charge it when you get it home to start flying.

The Way Cooler Option: Parrot AR Drone 2.0

The $300 Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is for someone who might have already had one of the cheaper RC helicopters, and is looking to step it up. This quadricopter is more fun, more powerful and--to be matter-of-fact--cooler. It can reach heights of almost 200 meters, and has a top speed of 11 meters per second. It also has two built-in 720p cameras, and you can stream/record the feed to your Android/iOS smartphone or tablet, which also acts as the device’s controller. You can even snap photos. According to PC Magazine, the video quality is similar to what you’d get with a smartphone. This model is significantly larger than the other one, at over 20 inches across. But it has two different hulls, outdoor and indoor, that you can change depending on your environment. The downside here of course, is the price, but if you’re looking for something fun and entertaining to do with that commission check, then it’s a really cool option.   Do you have questions about these tech recommendations? Have you or someone you know tried out one of these bad boys? Let us know in the comments below.