The Sky's the Limit for Drones

Lauren Krause
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If toy companies have their way, 2015 may be the year of the drone with several new offerings of toy drones in the works based on the popular quadcopter design. Drone technology for commercial use has trickled down into the private, hobbyist sector now that designs have become more affordable for everyday use.

Enthusiasts at the 2015 London Toy Fair noted more toy drones on display than in years' past. Some drones respond to voice commands, while others blast water at enemies for a high-tech water fight. Other models have control systems using smartphones, which means longer flight times when compared to other battery-operated, remote-control vehicles. Smartphone controls also allow greater flying distances away from the controller.

Companies such as Bladez Toyz saw demand for toy drones increase 450 percent from 2013 to 2015. Flying Toys' new drone model has increased turnover by 700 percent in just the first three months of 2015. Both firms seized on the quadcopter design, which contains four propellers on each toy rather than a traditional helicopter format. Quadcopters have more stable configurations and feature easier controls.

The toy industry also realized price reductions thanks to the popularity of noncommercial uses. Amazon's potential drone delivery system, combined with smartphone technology already in place, made the hobby more affordable. Instead of fancy toy drones that cost around $450, prices for 2015 models are one-third to one-sixth that amount, somewhere between $75 and $150.

Unique toy drones present families with a wide variety of options. Some toys have HD cameras so people can record their flight. Other, ground-based drones climb walls. A water-blasting drone makes water fights and hot summer days more interesting. Some drones fit in the palm of a human hand, while fancier models carry special payloads.

Huge corporations and the U.S. government no longer own the market on drone technology. All of these toys fit under the Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines that stipulate drones must weigh less than 55 pounds and remain within sight of the controller at all times. What started as a business opportunity for Amazon's ultra-fast product delivery has become the next big thing to jump-start toy sales as warmer weather approaches. Although none of these drones can fly themselves, toy manufacturers have rushed to meet demand for kids and adults.

Military drones gained headlines during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and over the next decade of development, the technology became affordable to everyday consumers. Much like cellphones, flat screen televisions and Blu-ray discs, drones will continue to drop in price as competition heats up.

Toy drones represent a fast-growing segment of the industry. Battery life has been extended for longer flight times, and many toys have already-made remote controls thanks to smartphone apps. Toy companies can now focus on packing more cool stuff into drones just in time for the 2015 winter holidays.


Photo courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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