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The Next Old Thing

Illustration Spur Design

Corbis (Wright Bros); Fred Simon/OnePHOT.com

Corbis (Wright Bros); Fred Simon/OnePHOT.com

The Technology: Personal Drones
The Product: Parrot MiniDrone
The Forebears: Orville & Wilbur Wright

When they made their first short flight above Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville and Wilbur Wright ended centuries of endeavor that, until then, had tended to involve some variation on the word splat.

That basic human dream of taking to the skies, though, is increasingly being replaced by the inclination to sit in a small room somewhere fiddling with a joystick.

We are referring, of course, to drones, the scourge of the warlord and the future of invasive celebrity reporting. Because, for better or worse, these things are becoming increasingly easy to get your hands on. Farmers and property developers have them, as do rescue workers and police departments. And now you too can be the owner of your very own personal drone.

Earlier this year, the French electronics company Parrot unveiled its new MiniDrone, an aerial robot whose main purpose might be to make teenage boys say “Cool!” The device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and connects to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The smartphone then serves as a remote cockpit.

If this sounds a bit like a fancy remote-controlled helicopter—well, it kind of is, albeit one with a little artificial intelligence thrown in. The MiniDrone also has two wheels, allowing it to drive as well as fly. There’s no camera on this model, so snooping opportunities are limited, but it seems likely that future MiniDrones will rectify this oversight, and maybe add a few Nerf missiles to boot.

Parrot spokesperson Katie Geralds says she doesn’t have a release date for the product yet, or a price—but, she adds, “When it does come to stores, it’ll amuse.”

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