Plenty of mobile games simulate air combat, but only one involves flying real aircraft. Parrot's AR.Drone is a four-propeller helicopter that can connect to an iPhone, iPad, or Android-based device via WiFi, allowing users to pilot the craft using simple onscreen controls. A front-mounted camera provides a live, first-person view of the flight on the screen of your phone or tablet, while a secondary cam in the belly offers a bombardier's view of the ground directly below.
But there's more to the AR.Drone than just the fun of flight. A collection of first-party apps and accessories turns the drone into a platform for a variety of games. You can use the quadricopter to hunt down a fleeing human opponent, go up against another drone in frenetic dogfights, or test your precision by racing through a series of rings and pylons.
Plus, Parrot's open source code has given birth to a plenty of specialized third-party apps designed to do things like help videographers capture better aerial footage and teach ambitious users advanced piloting techniques. One even promises to turn the drone into a flying dancing machine.
Canada's chilly winters might make giving an AR.Drone as a Christmas gift seem tantamount to a tease, but the quadricopter's lightweight design, removable foam bumpers and precise controls make it suitable for indoor shenanigans. Indeed, a big rumpus room is probably the best place to try to get your air-legs. Once it's out of the box and in the air – it takes just minutes – there's a good chance you will forget everything else under the tree. ($329.99; www.futureshop.ca)