Fly, crash, fix, fly. That’s the motto of drone pilots everywhere. It only takes flying one to find out why.
For a big quadcopter, the “fix” step might involve anything from taping down a stray part to resoldering your electronics.
For a Flybrix quadcopter? Fixing means putting LEGO back together.
When I went to see the Flybrix copters a few weeks ago, I instantly wanted to play with them. They’re drones. Made from LEGO. Isn’t that enough? Motors, props, wires, a flight controller, and a battery all tuck onto multicolored bricks. You can build the simple airframes their kit supports (one kit handles quad-, hex-, and octocopters), but look at all those studs poking out; they’re begging for you to add your own bricks. We’ve probably all made LEGO creations and pretended they were flying. What if they actually were?
If you’ve ever dropped a LEGO creation (or watched this video of a LEGO Star Destroyer smashing into a LEGO Death Star), you know they come apart pretty easily. What does that mean when your drone crashes? You guessed it: a spectacular shower of pieces. It’s almost more fun to crash these than to fly them. That’s what I told myself, anyway, after a short flight of mine ended in a cascade of bricks near a startled marketing person. Putting their simple airframes together takes almost no time once you get the hang of it. But I would recommend you get used to flying the basic setup before you spend hours building out your amazing flying castle. Either that, or bring on the Kragle.
Flybrix, which was started by alums from top schools, thinks these flying brick assemblies make great educational tools. What happens when you don’t balance your copter with LEGO pieces? What LED patterns can you get going via the smartphone-app controller? (The flight controller supports both Bluetooth from the app and radio from a controller included with the deluxe kit.) What data is coming in from the sensors, which you can access after a flight? What does the code look like for the flight controller? What happens if you tweak it? All of those are questions that your kids can dig into as they wish. Maybe they just want their imagination to take flight. Maybe they want to dissect the inner workings of quadcopters. Or maybe something in between.
Flybrix considers 14 years old to be the sweet spot for its pilots, but obviously kids of all ages (including, ahem, 45) can find an entry point. With one of my current drones, my 3.5-year-old daughter will set out landing spots for me to fly to or get the drone up into the air herself so that I can then control it.
While Flybrix isn’t ready to announce upcoming features, they gave me some hints. I’ll be excited to see my Flybrix copter — of course I ordered one! — evolve with these new capabilities. In among the crashes, of course.
Flybrix copters are out today, with an introductory price of $149 for the basic kit (no radio controller) and $189 for the deluxe.