If you’ve ever dreamed of having a chilled bottle of champagne delivered to you by a small flying robot (and who hasn’t, really?), then you’re in luck: A luxury hotel in California is using drones to transport bubbly to high-paying guests. The devices are also popping up at weddings, where they’re being used to shoot drone selfies, or “dronies,” an eye-roll-inducing term coined by nerdy tech folk several months ago.
These consumer-friendly copters, which can be anywhere from palm-size to three feet wide, are inching their way into the zeitgeist. Even Amazon is getting in on the action—the company recently announced its plans for Prime Air, a delivery system that relies on aerial vehicles to bring customers their packages in 30 minutes or less.
Because the drone phenomenon is so new, government regulations surrounding their commercial use are still being developed. In the meantime, the Federal Aviation Association says that hobbyists can fly them under certain guidelines, like keeping the drone in sight of the operator—which means you could use one to film your kid’s soccer game, canvas the area for a missing dog, shoot an aerial video of your new house to share with friends or, you know, see what your neighbor is BBQing for dinner. With an increasing number of companies making user-friendly devices, owning a drone is becoming more tempting than ever before.Here are five we have our eyes on.
AR.DRONE 2.0 ELITE EDITION
Controlling the drone is simple—just download the accompanying “Free Flight” app on any iOS or Android device, and watch it take flight up to 164 feet in the air. While flying, the drone’s built-in HD camera streams live video directly to the connected smartphone or tablet.
AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition, $299.95, Parrot, apple.com
ROLLING SPIDER MINIDRONE
Parrot’s latest palm-size release is significantly smaller than its drone predecessors. It comes with a camera for still images and removable plastic wheels, which allows the device to roll on the ground and scale walls.
Rolling Spider MiniDrone, $99.95, Parrot, apple.com
PHANTOM 2 VISION+
The Phantom 2 Vision+ can reach altitudes up to 900 feet, at speeds maxing out at 35mph, making it arguably the most advanced consumer drone on the market. The WiFi-enabled drone and its integrated 14 megapixel camera are controlled through a corresponding mobile app.
Phantom 2 Vision+, $1299.99, DJI, atlantahobby.com
For novice pilots, operating the LA100 is completely fool-proof—the drone flies itself. Mount a GoPro (not included) on the top or bottom of the wing, select from one of the device’s pre-programmed flight paths and then launch it by hand to capture five minutes of aerial video.
LA100, $990, Lehmann Aviation, lehmannaviation.com
The 2.8 pound quadcopter from 3D Robotics comes fully assembled out of the box and is designed to accommodate a GoPro HERO 3 (sold separately). It takes off with the press of a single button and promises a flying time of 7 to 15 minutes.
Iris, $750, 3D Robotics, 3drobotics.com