LONDON — My wife, Alexa, has made something of a profession out of getting me great birthday presents. Over the years, her gifts have included an old Sports Illustrated with a hologram of Michael Jordan on the cover and a photography tour of a particularly photogenic part of southern China.
So for my most recent birthday, I had no idea what to expect when she handed me a large box. Inside, I found a new drone.
The only problem: I had to learn how to fly it.
This may not be easy for many people. First, there is the matter of figuring out the capabilities of the drone. Consumer drones come in different sizes and prices. You can build your own drone, attach a GoPro camera and customize a range of options. Or you can get one that works right out of the box.
Flying the drone is daunting. There are regulations to know. In the United States, because the industry is relatively new, federal rules are sometimes at odds with regulations set by states and local authorities.
In Britain, where I live, rules for flying hobbyist drones are mercifully more straightforward, and the Civil Aviation Authority has taken steps to translate often dense guidance into easier-to-understand language. In July, it released “The Dronecode” and has published an animated video summarizing the rules.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.