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Drones, also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles,” have been used for military purposes since before World War I. Drones for consumer use have only been available for a handful of years, but they’ve become wildly popular in that short time. The first consumer drones were pretty pricey and required a steep learning curve, but today there are lots of budget-friendly ones on the market for flying novices. To that end, we’ve rounded up the best toy drones of 2016.
Though many of these drones are affordable, some may require a little financial planning. After all, you wouldn’t want to blow your holiday budget and wind up in debt. Check out this roundup of awesome toy drones and prepare for the future of flight.
1. Nano Drone for Beginners by AERIX
The Nano Drone from AERIX is perfect for first-timers, with a three-speed calibration system that allows novices to take off slowly and build from there. It should be used indoors, and even has guards and landing skids to protect it just in case you crash into things as you’re learning. Once you’ve figured it out, use the LED lights to fly your Nano in the dark! The remote control is included. The Nano Drone is available for $40 on The Grommet’s website.
2. Sky Rover Voice Command Drone
Give one of 13 commands, and the Sky Rover Voice Command Drone will do what you ask, including flips! If you’re an unsteady flyer at first, don’t worry. The four motors are cushioned by propeller guards, so this baby is tough to break. Three AAA batteries are required, but hand controls and replacement blades are included. Sky Rover Voice Command Drone is available for $60 at Toys R Us.
3. Portable Pocket Quadcopter With Camera by Odyssey Toys
On the go? Odyssey’s tiny indoor/outdoor drone has collapsible blades so you can take it with you. Great for novices and pros, it features technology to help keep things stable. It also has lights so you can fly it at night. Record your adventures in video and photos, stored on the 4GB Micro-SD card. (Ignore the temptation to spy on your neighbors!) Odyssey’s pocket drone is available for $130 on Brookstone’s website.
4. Air Hogs Connect Augmented Reality Mission Drone
Add another dimension to your drone play with virtual reality! This indoor drone — which comes with its own carrying case, a major plus — is played with an interactive mat and a free iOS or Android app you can use with your tablet. When you fly the drone over the mat, it activates a team of virtual teammates who join in a series of missions. You can also fly solo without the virtual features. Air Hogs Connect Mission Drone is available on Barnes & Noble’s website for $149.95.
5. Parrot SWING
Parrot SWING is controlled by the Flypad controller, which easily mounts to your smartphone. Changing settings is a breeze, and SWING can be controlled from as far as 60 meters away. It even has autopilot mode if you’d prefer to be a bystander. Four additional propellers are included. SWING is available for $140 on Parrot’s website.
6. Sky Viper Remote Control Hover Racer Gaming Drone
Fly solo, or race and battle up to four friends! Mount your smart device on the controller, and use the four infrared beacons to set up a course that you can view on the free smartphone app. As you improve, so will your virtual weapons and other fun features. Interchangeable thumb sticks, replacement blades and screwdriver all are included. Priced at $89, Sky Viper is available at Toys R Us.