6 Ways to Play Without Getting Your Hands Dirty

Remote-control goodies for the gilded age of RC

We’re calling it: We live in a golden age of remote-controlled gadgets. Technological leaps in sensors, batteries, processors, and motors. Of all the vehicles you can operate from a distance, here are six of the best—by air, by sea, and by land.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title “6 Ways to Play Without Getting Your Hands Dirty.”

Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K Drone

$899.99 Who cares about federal drone regulations? The Typhoon Q500 always knows where it is and will stay within legal airspace (under 400 feet). It shoots 4K video and streams live to the controller’s monitor (so you don’t have to use your phone’s spotty Wi-Fi connection). You can also remove the camera and attach it to a handheld gimbal for stabilized ground video. This slide has been updated to reflect the new price of the Q500.

OpenROV Trident

$1,199 OpenROV’s Trident is an open-source submersible that can be piloted using a virtual-reality headset or a laptop, allowing you a full range of control up to 328 feet below the surface. The drone offers two hours of what the company calls “flight time.” It also comes with a tether, so you can survey the deep ocean a la James Cameron without worrying about losing your precious explorer.

Parrot Orak Hydrofoil Drone

$159 The Orak is a hybrid drone that’s just as capable in the air as it is in the water. This hydrofoil is powered by a tiny quadcopter that lifts vertically about 3 inches from the hull to provide thrust. It can cruise past 6 mph atop the waves or up to 11 mph in the sky. Just detach the quadcopter and fly!

VideoRay Pro 4

$43,500 If you want to go deep (underwater and into your pockets), the VideoRay Pro 4 will take you there. This underwater drone has a maximum depth of 1,000 feet. The Pro 4 shoots video at 1080p and instantly transmits raw footage to the surface through its tether. It’s also outfitted with two LED light arrays to illuminate your path through the ocean’s depths.

Traxxas X-maxx

$799 Rip through any terrain with a monster truck the size (and demeanor) of a small terrier. The car is nearly 30 inches long and tops 35 mph at its fastest. While four-wheel drive ensures the grippiest traction on any surface, the X-Maxx also has self-righting technology. That means if you overturn it on a tight corner, you can hit a button on the remote and it flips back on its wheels and keeps right on going.

Anki Overdrive

$149.99 The raceway comes to your living room with this pair of futuristic vehicles. Build one of eight pre-configured tracks, then drive the cars using any Bluetooth-ready tablet or phone. Each car is programmed to race on its own, so you always have a worthy opponent.