The best drone gifts of 2016, for beginners and experts, alike
One of the biggest industries (and toys) to come out of the past five years is the drone. Below, find the coolest gifts for the drone enthusiast in your life (although you'll probably end up keeping most of them for yourself).
A few things to keep in mind: The Federal Aviation Administration has rules you need to follow, which explain things such as aircraft weight restrictions, when you're legally allowed to fly during the day, and how far away from airports and people you have to be and some drones are required to be registered with the FAA.
Also important is a drone's flight time, transmission range (or how far away it can fly and still communicate with you), durability and stability.
Essentially, the goal is to have fun while also staying safe!
On to the gifts:
Editor's note: Prices and product availability are subject to change throughout the holidays.
Baby's first drone
If you're buying someone's first drone, you'll want to get something that's A) not super expensive, because it will need to be B) wreckable. This is why the folks at Tom's Guide say the UDI U818A ($43.99) is a great choice for beginner pilots: "This bare-bones quadcopter relies on the skills of the person holding the remote," the guide explains. "It offers a few frills, but keeps its controls simple and fun to fly. While it is far from perfect (and the video quality is less than impressive)," they say this is a "great pick for aspiring pilots who want to be in control of their flights."
Fun tiny drone
The best and cutest drone has got to be the Cheerson CX-10 Mini Quadcopter, which fits in the palm of your hand. It's great for indoor flights and is super cheap: just $15.48.
"The CX10 looks and feels a little like it came out of cereal box, in an alternate universe where cereal boxes have really great toys," Gizmodo wrote in a review. "It's cheap, adorably tiny, requires no out-of-the-box assembly and is a fun, casual way to introduce yourself to the world of drone piloting."
For serious droning
If your pilot needs an upgrade, we suggest the Phantom 4 from DJI ($1,058). It generated some buzz (no pun intended) when it launched of this year for its cache of abilities: mainly its "obstacle avoidance" feature, which presciently senses and avoids possible dangers in its path.
When the 3-year-old son of a reviewer for the Verge took control, tapping "frantically" at a tree on the iPad screen controls, the Phantom 4 smoothly captured "a dramatic shot, with the drone splitting the difference between two trees, sunset shining on their outstretched branches," the reviewer wrote.
For less-serious droning
Spin Master's Air Hogs USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A ($54.59) is the drone to get for the pilot who has everything else: It's fun, super durable, and when lit up looks cool AF at night. Says a Gizmodo review:
"Before you get the hang of piloting it, the Enterprise is going to crash — a lot. However, I didn't even come close to breaking it. The plastic cage that makes up the saucer section does a great job at absorbing impacts, and protecting the propellers. I stopped wincing after the fourth or fifth crash, realizing the toy wasn't as frail as it first appeared."
For the drone naturalist
The Bionic Bird ($105) looks like a bird, flies like a bird and is controlled intuitively in the palm of your hand by a smartphone app. "It's the only machine that doesn't scare the real birds," its creator, Edwin Van Ruymbeke, says in the video above (which also means the durable robobird also has a good chance of fooling that predatory hawk into thinking it's lunch).
A portable charger comes in the shape of an egg, and the kit comes with two spare wings, in case that hawk makes off with a chunk.
Look at him go:
A drone CPR kit
In the high chance that any drone mishap should occur (it gets stuck in a tree, falls to the ground, breaks), it's best to have a toolkit on hand, and we like the Grab & Go Tool Kit from Helipal ($39.90). With 11 items, such as a hex screwdriver, battery voltage buzzer and propeller balancer, this handy kit has anything you'd need for most emergencies.
This month, Mic Essentials brings you handpicked deals, reviews, recommendations and gift ideas. For more ideas, see our lists for the best men's grooming products, awesome gifts for the badass feminist in your life and perfect products for the skincare obsessed. If you buy something through a link on this page, Mic may earn a small commission.