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Droning on Christmas

What's the buzz?

Go high-tech with a camera in the sky. Photo credit:

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The holiday season kicks all of that wanting into overdrive. Drones are trending as the latest gadget du jour. They're everywhere these days. wants to deliver packages with them. Paparazzi are using them to get celebrity photos. And odds are that your kid wants one, too. But what are they? What can they do? Should you really buy your kid a drone for Christmas?

But those aren't the drones your kids are looking for. Most kids will be looking for a quadcopter that either comes with a camera or can have one mounted on it. What's a quadcopter? It's a helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors.

Why have drones suddenly skyrocketed in popularity? As Gordon Kruberg of Gumstix Inc. notes, the current "groundswell of activity" has historical precedent. Kids have been playing with remote control planes and copters for more than 30 years, but "technology has made them easier to use." He would know; Gumstix makes the circuit boards for drones.

And the current crop of drones is easier to use. Most of them are electric or battery-powered, as opposed to using gas or kerosene. That means they are lighter and have more flying time. They're also nimbler than the remote control copters of yesteryear.

Why does your child want a drone?

There are build-a-drone kits available, as well. If your child is interested in robotics or engineering, this is the way to go. Your kid will not only have a drone but also be the one who puts it together.

There's also the burgeoning market for aerial drone games. That's something that Kruberg knows about, as he's in the midst of developing a game. "It's like Quidditch, but the drone is the ball." Harry Potter fans of the world rejoice! You can keep up with it at

There are things you should consider before you plunk down your credit card. First, how old is your child, and what will he be using it for? If you've got a 7-year-old, a plastic $50 model to buzz around the yard would probably be fine. But your 12-year-old might have her heart set on a serious several-hundred-dollar model that can fly much farther and higher.

And where will your child be flying the drone? If you don't have the space available in your yard, you'll need to find a public place that allows it.

So you will definitely need to set some parameters and rules regarding drone use if you do decide to get one.

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