A relatively inexpensive drone has been getting some buzz at #CES2017: It’s called the “Airblock” – and it magnetically clips together in multiple configurations. With the tagline “Build It. Code It. Fly It.” – it’s one of the most unusual designs TDC has seen.
Though it’s getting some interest at the show, it actually launched as a KickStarter project. It’s described as “The first modular drone that can be turned into a hovercraft, car, and more! It does stunts through drag-and-drop programming.”
(One of us here at TDC ordered a crowd-funded drone once, called the Micro-Drone 3.0. It was a massively successful Indiegogo campaign – and a terribly disappointing product. The first one we received would flip over of its own accord and crash to the ground. We fought and fought – unsuccessfully – for a refund.)
This looks like a more mature product – or at least is something with more possibilities.
Starting with a base kit at $99 USD, the Airblock features components that stick together with magnets, while making an electronic connection at the same time.
At its core is a foam hexagon that houses the basic electronics and battery. On each of those six sides, and in multiple configurations, a user can add on mini-hexagons – each featuring a tiny brushed motor and prop in their hollow center.
And that adds up to not just one type of drone – but a whole range of flying devices controlled via bluetooth.
“Spider mode,” for example, kind of crawls along the floor – while Hovercraft mode can actually operate like a hovercraft on the floor or water.
The real appeal, however, is that kids can use a Scratch-like programming app to code their Airblock to carry out some basic manoeuvres, including flips and tricks.
It’s very much an entry-level toy, and the odds are you’d be safest flying this light aircraft indoors. TDC suspects a strong gust of wind could carry it away in no time. But one of its cool advantages is that crashing it into a wall is not likely to damage it – instead the pieces are more likely to simply disengage from one another. Or at least that’s what their video indicates.
Still, it’s a great way for kids to be introduced to both the world of drone flying and basic coding at the same time.
The product raised nearly $830,000 on Kickstarter, which is a very respectable amount.
The Chinese-made toy is supposed to start shipping next month. FOX News named it one of their “10 Best Gadgets” at the CES show.