Drone too small for any pilot bigger than a cockroach

You may have noticed that we enjoy our quadcopters here at Gizmag, from the GPS-equipped Phantom 2 Vision to the palm-sized 1SQ V-cam. Recently though, we had a chance to try out a somewhat unusual style of quad in the form of the tiny Proto X from Estes. It may not have a laundry list of features under its belt, but the Proto X does hold the distinction of being the smallest quadcopter we’ve ever reviewed … by a huge margin.

The Proto X costs US$39.99 and comes ready to fly with its own controller right out of the box…The only necessary components missing from the box are two AAA batteries, which are needed for the transmitter. However, fitting them into the controller and charging the quadcopter via USB are the only steps needed before the Proto X is prepared to take off.

I really can’t stress enough how incredibly tiny this quadcopter is. It’s actually a little startling to pick it up for the first time, because it isn’t much bigger than some insects you might find in your backyard…

Due to its size, flying the Proto X feels like guiding a large bug, right down to the faint buzzing noise it makes. If it weren’t for the LEDs that light up when it’s switched on, it would be difficult to keep track of it at a distance. My haphazard attempts to take photos of it in flight with an ordinary digital camera made me sympathize with anyone who’s tried to record a UFO.

The box and instructions say it’s intended for indoor use, so that’s where I flew it most, but I did take it outside once just to see how it would handle. After a gust of wind blew it far away after it had barely lifted a few feet off the ground though, I understood why the manufacturer had made that call. It might fare better on a nicer day, but in my area, this isn’t exactly the time of year to find out…

At one point when it was hovering in place, my dog actually leaped up and snatched it right out of the air. He released it almost immediately, and I made sure to get him out of the room before flying it from then on, but the quadcopter still came out of it without even a scratch. I doubt it would survive being stepped on or dropped off a building, but it’s still nice to know it can survive a few mishaps during regular use.

We would have to keep our Sheila outdoors if we got one of these to play with in the house. She catches and eats grasshoppers on our walks this time of year.

For about $40, I can think of all sorts of evil deeds this critter might be used for by the average high school or undergrad geek. Phew!

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