Tech

8 civilian drones that beat the pants off your dinky, earth-bound R/C cars

Certain leaders of the free world have received a pretty large amount of criticism for using drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. Controversy aside, it’s clear that the drones themselves are extremely awesome feats of mechanical engineering. Now, you too can (vicariously) take to the skies, thanks to these civilian models on the market, on sale for anywhere between $100 to $50,000. Clearly, air-to-surface missiles not included.

Micro Drone - $107
Baby’s first drone. This small, relatively cheap flyer is easy to use, making it perfect for the kid who wants to upgrade from a paper airplane to the real deal. It’s basically an indoor pet, so don’t expect much elevation or flying time. There is, however, enough juice in the little bugger to charge across the room before smashing into a wall.

Walkera QR Infra/Smart Drone - $130
Speaking of collisions, don’t expect many airborne fender-benders with the Walkera. It’s got 10 sensors meant to keep it from knocking around all over the place. Put your hand up next to it, and it goes in the other direction. And a hand is all this guy can handle: it’s the size of a palm, making it little more than a mechanical bird spinning around in circles.

Parrot Ar.Drone 2.0 - $300
Slightly more expensive is the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 (followup to the 1.0), but the higher price tag gets you some extra goodies. There's a built-in camera for all your aerial photography needs, and the ability to create a wifi network so it can send the pictures down. All that, and the longer stamina keeps it in the air for up to 20 minutes.

4-Channel Predator/Reaper-Style UAV Plane - $350
For the more hawkish drone fans, there’s the 4-Channel Predator/Reaper-Style UAV. It’s modeled off the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, the very jet sent into Afghanistan days after September 11, 2001, searching for the perpetrators. Imagine you’ve got a Predator of your own, and hunt down targets in the backyard. It’s like a very advanced version of cops and robbers.

Iris Quadcopter - $730
Just released, the Iris Quadcopter comes prebuilt. All you have to do to get it flying is press a button. But the real draw here is that you can control it from your Android, using an app. Using your phone to pilot a drone sure beats using it to send emoji.

Turbo Ace X830-D Drone RTF - $1285
We’re moving up in the price range, but for good reason. The Turbo Ace X830-D can stay up in the air for up to a half an hour, much longer than the cheaper alternatives. It’s fully assembled, and it’s strong enough to hold a pretty big camera — so you can get some insane mid-air footage. What, you still film home movies on the ground? Really???

Aibotix Aibot X6 UAV Drone - $30,000
Now on to the big boys. Landing, takeoff and crash scenarios are all automated, so you’re barely even flying the thing. Which is good, as it’s probably carrying a ton of film equipment — the Aibotix Aibot is pretty popular among the guys on set. Now you know where all those badass aerial shots come from, and capture a few of your own.

Penguin B UAV Vehicle - $50,000
And, finally, there’s the Penguin. Once strictly for government use, this is now on the market, meaning civilians with enough loose cash can get their hands on a bona fide — and official as "official" goes — UAV. It can stay up in the air for 26 hours. And if you own it, neighborhood watch just got interesting. Or, actually, please don’t go taking homeland security into your own hands.