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This tiny drone costs $14 and is perfect for beginners

cheerson microdrone
Alice Truong/Quartz
A surprisingly cute drone.
By Alice Truong

Deputy editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Christmas morning 2015 is going to be terrifying. Up to a million people—many of them children—are going to find drones under the tree, gifted to them by well-intentioned relatives who have no clue how dangerous these flying lawnmowers can be.

The thing about drones is that they can be very tricky to pilot. It’s inevitable that newbies will crash their shiny quadcopters—hopefully into walls and poles, and not people.

But drones can also be kind of cute. Little micro-drones—so small they fit in the palm of a child’s hand—are decidedly less intimidating. And with small plastic propellers, each measuring about an inch long, they’re probably the least dangerous quadcopters on the market.

Alice Truong/Quartz
The Cheerson CX-10.

At $14, the Cheerson CX-10 is one of the most popular quadcopters on Amazon, having amassed more than 900 reviews. It’s low on frills—there’s no camera or auto-pilot capabilities—but it proves to be an excellent device for the aspiring drone pilot to learn on.

What’s interesting?

It’s cheap, fast, and even capable of doing tricks. The controller has buttons to flip the quadcopter—a move I’ve yet to master.

Unlike fancier drones, such as Parrot’s upcoming Bebop 2 ($550), there are no buttons for auto-take off or auto-landing. Everything is manual, and the hardest part is keeping the microdrone stable in the air. One of the easiest things about flying Parrot’s drones is that they stay in the air even when you’re not doing anything. Gravity will immediately take over the moment you stop controlling the Cheerson.

There are two joysticks on the controller: the left rotates the device (the blue lights indicate the front) and controls its altitude, the right is for steering it. Given its size, the battery life isn’t fantastic—just a few minutes of flying time, but it also takes very little time to charge up. Using a protective cage, which adds a barrier between the rotors and whatever it crashes into, will also eat away at the battery life, but it does provide some ease of mind. Regardless of whether you use one, you’ll want to buy lots of spare parts because it’s going to crash—over and over again.

Alice Truong/Quartz
In its protective cage.

Does it work?

Yep, though a friend who bought two of these told me that there were marked difference in handling—one was significantly easier to fly and keep stable in the air. These are cheap little devices shipping from China, so results may vary. (Another thing to note: It can take about a month to arrive.)

Worth the money?

You bet! You might even want to get a second one, so you have a quadcopter to fly while the other’s charging.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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