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For the Budget Conscious

Accessible as the price has become for some pretty sophisticated drones, not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend. This section is for you! There’s plenty of fun to be had (and given) with the gift ideas below.

Budget Spy Helicopters

These traditional RC helicopters get the spy drone treatment, due to the addition of an integrated video camera.

For a very easy-on-the wallet gift, try the Syma S107C, pictured above. Flight control is reported to be very stable on these durable helicopters, although the weight of the camera can make it a little tricky until you get used to it.

It can shoot 640×320 video with audio, and store over ten minutes on the included 512MB microSD card. The included remote control uses infrared (IR) light rather than radio frequency (RF). Note that there is some assembly required.

Next up on the price tier is the Egofly Hawkspy. This helicopter is pretty big, nearly two feet long, which is much bigger than the Syma discussed above. Along with increased size, this copter comes with a 1GB microSD card to store 640 x 480 video. The included RF remote includes trim adjustments for fine control and can also operate the camera and nifty on-board LEDs. The larger size and weight may make this a better choice for outdoor flying, although you still need pretty light wind to fly.

Finally in this category, here is the Keen Eye S903 helicopter. This RF controlled copter is 28 inches long and comes with a 1.3 Megapixel video camera. The included 2GB microSD card can hold up to 50 minutes of video. Two counter-rotating blades make this helicopter a nice stable platform.

Price

  • Syma S107C: $39.70
  • Egofly Hawkspy: $80.99
  • Keen Eye K9C: $97.85

What they Do

What can I say? They fly. They spy. You won’t get live video with these, but the included microSD memory card will record your video.

Why they’re Cool

If you are buying for someone who already likes to fly RC helicopters, these spy copters may be a good choice. It is a fairly easy way to get going with video recording in an aerial drone.

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.


Comments

  1. The Parrot AR.Drone is a fantastically capable platform, but I wouldn’t call it a complete package. Until they include a remote control or make it compatible with standard RC controllers out of the box, it will remain an iPhone accessory to me.

    Kudos for ease of repair and spare part availability.

  2. Fair point! You do need to supply the smartphone or tablet to control the AR.Drone. Parrot has a compatibility tab on their support page, which tells you exactly which devices it will work with.
    http://ardrone2.parrot.com/support/

  3. I don’t see the HoverFly kit listed !!! Those are awesome kits !

    1. Yes, that’s a good one to add to the list. Thanks for mentioning it. Hoverfly makes some very nice flight systems, boards and accessories. I almost included the Parallax Elev-8 quadcopter (http://www.robotshop.com/parallax-elev-8-quadcopter-uav.html), which uses a Hoverfly control board.
      Interested readers can find out more at http://www.hoverflytech.com.

  4. Michael Margolis says:

    I really like that tricopter build. Although the component table needs a correction for the speed controller cost – 3 of those will be $23.40 (the table shows $9.40). its still a lot of tricopter for the money. This will go onto my list of new years projects, thanks for posting this.

    1. Whoops! Good catch, Michael. I’ll see if we can get the cost table updated. I’m hoping to make this one in the new year too. Let me know how yours goes!

  5. Bruce says:

    Walkera has a new model called the Infra X, which is slightly bigger than the ladybug. It has sensors that allow it to avoid walls and the ground. Around $100.00, hard to find, but the videos look awesome.

    1. Nice find. That does look really cool. Did I mention that the market for small quadcopters is evolving at an incredible pace? You should definitely shop around and see what is out there before you buy. Be sure to check for independent reviews so you can be reasonably sure you are getting a quality product.

Aerial Drone Gift Guide