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I’ve already got one of my son’s Christmas presents picked out: the Micro UFO Quadcopter.

But the truth is the copter isn’t just for him. It’s for me, too.MakerShed_Holiday_Hdr-Logo_bur02

In my 14 months here at MAKE it’s been exciting to watch drones, er, take off. But I’ve yet to put my hands on one. And I know enough about piloting a drone that it makes sense to start slow before trying to launch something fancy.

The Micro UFO is a good place to start for newbies like me and my son (the product says it’s for ages 14+ and my son is 9, but I’ll make sure to keep an eye on things). It’s an RC quadcopter, not a drone and therefore not capable of autonomous flight. And even though it’s an entry-level unit, this quad is no slouch.

The UFO quad has controls that are very similar to what you’d find in a full size quadcopter. It features a 4-channel 2.4ghz radio that allows it to fly indoors and out and two flying modes: one for novices and a more aggressive mode for those with flying time. Another cool feature is that by pushing a switch you can make it flip forward, backwards, left, and right. Maybe you can do that. I haven’t yet.

I played around with a test model and I can tell it’s going to take a few hours to get the hang of it. (My son is a quicker learner than I am). But I can report that it withstood more than a few wall crashes and sky drops with no apparent damage.

A charged battery is supposed to last about 7 minutes, but I’m not skilled enough to keep it aloft for more than a few seconds. Give me time.

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Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Food
*Sustainable/green design
*Science
*Young Makers
*Action sports


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Comments

  1. Mike Meyer says:

    Can I suggest a different (unfortunately more expensive) quad? The Blade Nano QX:
    http://www.bladehelis.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=BLH7600

    It’s got at least one clear advantage over the Maker shed version: guards on the outside of the blades, so getting them to hit things (which is what causes most of the damage from a ‘copter) takes some work.

    The beginner mode is the most stable I’ve seen in a small quad. Not sure you can get it more stable than it, but this might not be better than the shed one.

    There is no “flip” button – instead, it has enough power in the agile mode to flip (and roll, and loop) it yourself. I much prefer this to “flip” buttons.

    It uses a popular radio protocol (DSM), so you can bind it to a computerized radio (which start at the same price as the micro quad) instead of the cheap ones found in most ready-to-fly packages. This makes more difference than you would think once you get beyond the beginner phase.

    Finally, it’s not a toy – it’s a hobby grade quad. It’s designed to be disassembled and fixed when it breaks, so they sell all the parts separately. I would expect a shed product to do that, but most toy quads aren’t designed to be fixed, even if they do sell the parts. I don’t see the parts for this one listed, which worries me.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to check that one out. No reason I can’t have both, right?

    2. Nick Parks says:

      One cool thing about the Micro UFO Quadcopter is that there is an optional foam cage that protects the blades. There are also a lot of 3D printable prop protectors on Thingiverse. That being said, Blade makes some very nice quads, the Nano definitely flies better than this one, but I don’t think it’s quite as durable.

  2. Got one of those for my son last Christmas. He enjoyed the heck out of it. He was also way better than me at flying it.

  3. Steve says:

    It is becoming customary to refer to all such aircraft as drones, whether autonomous or not.

    1. Mike Meyer says:

      Except in the RC community, which objects to our toys being lumped into the same category as the military and police craft that are causing politicians to write poorly-thought out laws making flying “drones” illegal.

    2. True, but since I wrote this for newbies I thought it best to define terms.

  4. milstead says:

    Timely review. My 9 yo recently received the UDI quadcopter (www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D3IN11Q/ref=oh_details_o04_s01_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) and we are enjoying it. The rotor guards will increase its lifespan and the swappable battery is appreciated. On board still/video camera (640×480) is a bonus and the 1 gb microsd was included as well as replacement rotors and a hilariously translated manual.

    Here’s his first day of flight with footage from onboard camera http://youth.be/kEnMPVdQHDI

    1. Link for milstead youtube video should be http://youtu.be/kEnMPVdQHDI

      1. Nice! Thanks for sharing. My son’s last flight didn’t go so well. The quadcopter is lost somewhere in the canopy of a 100-foot redwood tree…

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