By the sixth second of his first flight, Orville Wright was probably already past the thrill of flying and worried about how, exactly, he was going to land. After takeoff, landings are the hardest part of flying, a delicate balance of reducing speed and approaching the ground without slamming into it. A brand new drone, the Snap by Vantage Robotics, completely ignores a century of flight experience and instead offers a simple, alternative way to land: just crash the dang thing.
Snap doesn’t have to land by crashing, but the option is certainly nice. Its pieces fit together with magnets, and are made to be reattached afterwards. It’s both a safety feature and makes for easier carrying; snapping apart upon crash means the energy is dissipated, and several small parts pack easily. The RQ-11 Raven, a hand-tossed drone scout used by the military, does the same thing:
The drone can be piloted by either iPhone or Android smartphones, and it can also fly pre-programmed paths. Want to capture a group selfie but don’t have any friends with a 40-foot-long arm? Snap can fly up, take the picture, and return to its pilot. Snap’s propellers are enclosed in cages, so grabbing it in flight shouldn’t result in scratched-up hands. It weighs about a pound, and can fly for 20 minutes with a top speed of 30 mph. It will pre-order for $895, a little pricier than entry-level camera quadcopters but significantly cheaper than specialized models, like the DJI Inspire. If it has a niche, it’ll be hikers who want breathtaking photos without adding a ton of weight to their packs.