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Check out these five commercial quadrotors ranging from toys to tools.

4_DJI_Pantom2-Vision

DJI Phantom

$480–$1,200 dji.com

At press time, the Phantom leads the pack among “prosumer” quads. We’re not crazy about the manual, but love how it flies: It’s fast, powerful, and has a very long range. Onboard GPS provides waypoint hovering and a “panic” function that automatically returns and lands if the transmitter link breaks. Accessibly priced, but the add-ons are spendy (gimbals, landing skids), and after a few flights, you’re gonna want ’em.


 

1_Micro_Quad

Micro UFO Quadcopter

$70 makershed.com

This is a great starter quad that should still be fun for experts. It has a 6-axis gyro that makes it nearly impossible to flip over, and it’s very durable; we’ve crashed it into trees, grass, concrete — even a pond — and it still runs well. It comes with two batteries, so you can always keep one charging, and ours consistently outperformed the advertised 7-minute mark, giving flights of 10-12 minutes per charge. You don’t get an onboard camera at this price point, but otherwise this guy is hard to beat in terms of maximizing fun per unit buck.


 

5_Crazyfile_Nano

Crazyflie Nano 10-DOF

$180 makershed.com

At just 19g and 9cm across, this is the smallest commercial quad we know of, and certainly the most indoor-friendly. Assembly is required but it’s pretty easy: Solder 8 wires, place the motors, and plug in the battery. You can adapt a handheld transmitter to control it, but the out-of-box flight mode is through a USB radio dongle attached to a computer running the Crazyflie client software. Billed by the designers as “a development kit that flies,” everything about the platform — hardware, software, firmware, mechanical design — is fully open-source, so hack to your heart’s content!


 

2_Parrot-AR.Drone-2.0-bis

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

$300 parrot.com

The Parrot sits between basic off-the-shelf R/C quads and more serious offerings. It uses your smartphone as the controller, which is easy for beginners, but maybe not precise enough for pros. An onboard camera streams video right to your device for FPV and/or recording. We did break ours by flying it (hard) into a tree. Luckily, Parrot is extremely fix-it-friendly: Spare parts and quality docs are readily available online.


 

3_3dRobotics_iris

3D Robotics Iris

$750–$1,300 3drobotics.com

Shipping in late December with the new Pixhawk PX4 flight controller, the Iris is a sweet R/C platform, but really shines when flying itself — it can land, take off, loiter, circle, capture video, navigate waypoints, and perform scripted missions on its own. Avionics and software are completely open-source. If you’re more interested in “true drones” than hobbycoptering, this is probably your best “one box” bet.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


Nick Parks

Nick Parks is an engineering intern at MAKE, and he’s studying mechanical engineering at Santa Rosa Junior College. He likes to build and take apart things to make products better or create something new. He enjoys working at MAKE and likes to help other people build projects of their own.


Mike Senese

Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with remote-control aircraft, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

Follow @msenese


Craig Couden

Craig is an editorial assistant with MAKE, and among other things enjoys video games and light up clothing.


Eric Weinhoffer

Eric is a Manufacturing Engineer at Other Machine Co., where he uses large machines to make smaller machines. When not building things, Eric enjoys skiing, cycling, and climbing.


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