I was being literal, the most common stunt drones like to flip in the air. Sometimes they call it 360 aversion, or you might consider it a barrel roll, no matter, it’s a stunt and it’s fun to see.
There are other tricks that drones can perform these days, we’ll leave the technical merit of each up to you. For now, these are some great drones that perform some sort of aerial maneuver to bewilder an audience, the best stunt drones.
I hope we do not have to say this, but please be safe out there. A toy class drone performing a flip in your backyard will be just fine, perform that flip over your siblings’ head in the living room, maybe not as safe. Please note that we are intentionally omitting one of the most exciting ‘stunts’ you can perform with a drone, the high speed pass. I won’t pretend that a big drone flying quickly isn’t a rush, but a big drone flying quickly is an easy recipe for trouble.
What really matters, please work with me folks, it is still early days for drones in that laws are still being developed to control and even hinder our flights. If we make a habit and culture of flying safe, like manned aircraft strive for, chances are we’ll see fewer restrictions on future flights. Legislation aside, stunts can be dangerous, I have seen propellers break skin and require stitches, please do not experience the same.
Here are some safety tips:
Flips and single-drone stunts
Hubsan H108 Spyder
Make no mistake, this is a pretty basic drone. Hubsan does a great job at building basic drones, some of the best, actually. Knowing that you’re getting a quality flying machine, enjoy the added fun features of flips, spins and what they call a funnel.
Check out the Hubsan H108 Spyder for $30 on Amazon today. – Update: this drone appears to be missing from Amazon, we’ll leave the info here, but if it does not return to stores in a bit, we’ll find another great flipping drone for you. (Literally, again.)
Sky Viper s1700
As one of the top listed stunt drones on a Google search, and a nominee for a toy of the year award, we couldn’t ignore the Sky Viper s1700 stunt drone. With a low cost and a handful of one-touch controls for stunts, including flips and rolls, it’s no wonder this rates high on many toy drone lists.
Check out the Sky Viper s1700 for $53 on Amazon.
UDI Freedom U32
It can fly upside down! Let’s be totally fair, this is a decent and moderately powerful little drone that flips like many others out there. However, it has s trick, it can flip half way and fly upside down. Lights indicate the change, landing gear goes both ways, no matter what, this drone is facing up.
To get creative with the UDI Freddom U32, drop $35 on Amazon today.
We hesitate to add a fairly smooth and stable flying machine to this list, stunts are all about defying steady flight, right? DJI has a trick with this drone, you can fly it entirely by hand. Not talking about picking up a controller, I mean by hand literally. Tap the power button to launch from your hand, use hand gestures to maneuver and take photos and videos, then hand gestures again to bring the machine in for a landing.
We admit this is a stretch on the word “stunt,” but for folks new to the machine, perhaps only familiar with traditional RC machines, we assure you this is a stunt. I was setting up to fly the Spark one day, a local enthusiast dropped in to see what was up, he was a pilot of toy-class racing drones, experienced with flight, but his jaw dropped when Spark left my hand. I am sure I heard a gasp of disbelief when it brought itself in for a landing in the end as well. You can be the judge if that is a stunt or not.
Intel may be the current leader when it comes to choreographed flight. We’ve seen their Shooting Star drone up close and personal, but one in hand pales compared to hundreds of them flying in formation at Disney or over the Super Bowl.
Problem is, Intel has made it clear that Shooting Star is not headed to consumers anytime soon. Don’t fret, we can enjoy choreographed flight at home without them.
Ehang Ghostdrone 2
Also seen in our Best GoPro drones list
Determined to get in on the fun, Ehang has put their Ghostdrone to use on the same scale as Intel. You and I will have it a little harder to perform on this scale, but the tools exist, you can grab an Ehang Ghostdrone 2 and organize your own flight.
Check out the Ehang Ghostdrone for $355 on Amazon today.
Also seen in our Best selfie drones list
This compact, folding selfie drone has another trick up its sleeve, you can put a few of them together at home and fly them in pattern. We watched this in action at the NAB Show in April, it was great fun. The drones are controlled by a single mobile device and operate over top of a coded floor. There are a few default aerial dances included in the software, or code your own to fly in circles around a stage.
Check out the ZeroTech Dobby for $225 on Amazon today.
Intel Shooting Star
As I mentioned earlier, Intel is a world leader in the drone choreography department. let’s explore that a little more.
Did you see that thing that happened above the stadium around the Super Bowl in 2017? Yes, that display of drone flying prowess painting pictures in the night sky. That was put on by Intel, and they were flying the Shooting Star quadcopter. Correction, they were flying hundreds of Shooting Star drones during that presentation. Let me assure you that I am one of many that would love to fly a group of these drones. For now, I’ll have to settle with having simply held one earlier this year.
The Styrofoam and plastic build makes for a very light weight machine, especially considering it is a fairly large drone and it houses a dome with a bunch of bright LED lights. The accompanying ground station is able to manage as many as 500 Shooting Star drones at one time, allowing for fairly elaborate displays. Precision is the goal, but each drone is well equipped with cages so that propellers do not hit if… I mean when drones bump each other in the air.
Bottom line, one of the coolest stunt drones in the air today is one that you and I cannot purchase. Intel is keeping them all to themselves.
Update: Intel has updated the Shooting Star drone. The new version is more plastic than foam, and altogether more capable. We met up with them at InterDrone 2017 where I totally forgot to ask just how many of these drones they’ve created over the years. Anyhow, if you want to see what we did ask, enjoy the following video.
Special consideration: racing drones
I don’t know how you feel about flying drones, or your skill level, but I pose to you that successfully navigating a race course with a high speed drone is a stunt. I know my practice to create ultra smooth and slow moving flight for video capture makes me a poor race pilot. I applaud anyone that can rock the high-speed flying around highly technical courses, and if you are looking to give it a go, time to grab a racing drone.
When it comes to stunt drones, there are really only a few on the market that focus their efforts on some basic maneuvers. The rest is now up to you. Get out there with a flying machine, something agile and easily repairable, and create some new techniques. In this regard, most any drone that doesn’t fly itself can be the best stunt drone for you.
What is your favorite drone stunt?
Looking for a different kind of drone?