If you have a friend or relative who tests the limits of your gift-giving creativity each year, you may be wondering how to come up with yet another gift that is both fun and useful (and won't cost you an arm and a leg). In an era of smartphones, "selfie sticks," and web applications that help document every angle and aspect of life, you may be able to turn your gift-giving occasion into a much more memorable event by purchasing a photo- or video-capable drone. Read on to learn more about the many types of drones (and the many jobs a drone can do) to help you decide whether this would be the right gift for your loved one.
What is a drone?
A drone is better known in aeronautics circles as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. As the name suggests, just about any piece of flying equipment operated remotely by an earth-bound human can be considered a UAV. Most UAVs include some mechanism by which photos can be taken or video or audio recorded while the UAV is in flight.
Because of this ability to immediately access an aerial view of just about any structure, group of people, or natural feature, the popularity of UAVs among military personnel, police, and firefighters has boomed in recent years. From providing crowd control during public events to allowing firefighters to navigate through a wildfire when smoke and flames make ground visibility nil, UAVs are versatile tools to have in any law enforcement arsenal.
In addition to their utility when it comes to public safety, UAVs have also made an impact in the private sector -- from real estate agents who need a quick and easy way to take aerial photos of a home to independent movie producers who can't afford the heavy-duty equipment needed for aerial filmmaking. Hobbyists can use their own drones for any number of practical and fun applications, from taking photos around the neighborhood to providing home security services.
What types of drones are available for consumer purchase?
While a motorized aerial drone that is photo- or video-capable may sound like an expensive proposition, these drones are available at a variety of different price points for the consumer. There are two primary types of drone construction, and the perfect gift for your loved one will likely depend on his or her anticipated usage.
Although these UAVs do often bear a resemblance to toy radio-controlled helicopters, quadcopters are much more sophisticated pieces of equipment. These UAVs are powered by four separate propellers, giving them the ability to make sharp turns in midair or slowly angle the camera or video recorder up or down.
If you're concerned about your loved one's ability to safely navigate the skies with a delicate piece of machinery, you need not worry -- these quadcopters are designed to overcome operator error, with some even possessing the ability to automatically pilot themselves "home" (or to the last known location) or to conduct an emergency landing when the battery runs low.
- Planes or gliders
UAVs that take the shape of an airplane are ideal for filmmaking, as they provide a smooth and exceptionally quiet ride. UAV gliders are often engineered to stand up to inclement weather, and can be flown during hot, cold, rainy, and even snowy days -- perfect for the outdoorsy type.
As with quadcopters, these planes and gliders are often designed with homing mechanisms and other technology that will help prevent a crash. This can be especially important if your loved one plans to strap his or her smartphone to the UAV to capture photo or video footage.