You’ve seen the videos. You’ve heard the news. We’ve finally mastered the art of the phone-sized flying robot, and they’re doing everything from dancing to playing the James Bond theme. Naturally, you’ve got one question and one question alone: how do I get my hands on one?

The bad news is, the copters in question come from a university lab in Philadelphia, and they aren’t exactly in the retail business. But after a little digging, we’ve found a few ways to buy the next best thing.

First, that terrifying-yet-lust-inspiring video we’re talking about:

Now here’s how you get them.

The Out-of-the-Box Model
The good news is, there will be a few out-of-the-box models you can pick up in just a couple months. The Parrot AR Drone is arriving May 1 with the same quadricopter design you see in the video. Instead of programming it in advance, you’ll control it using an iPad or Android tablet as a remote, and it’ll be sending back 720p video the whole time. But if you were looking for something a little more automated and, well, swarmy, there’s always…

The DIY Route
We’ll come right out and say it: this way lies madness. There’s a frighteningly committed gang of robot hobbyists out there. If you were to get in deep enough, it wouldn’t be too expensive to build your own, complete with an onboard autopilot—but it would take quite a bit of time and know-how. If you’re short on the latter, we’d direct you to door #3.

Right from the Source
While the programming comes from the University of Pennsylvania, the bots are from a company called KMel Robotics. They’re not exactly retail-ready, but if you drop them a line with a sufficiently lucrative laundry-folding contract, you might be able to change their minds.

Now, to teach the bots to fold laundry.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom