Changing Planet

A Wing-Flapping Pig or an Air-Swimming Fish for Christmas?

This post is the latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series which profiles interesting information, thoughts and research into using  drones, UAVs or remotely piloted vehicles for journalism and photography, that Kike learns about during his travels. 


I remember watching War Games over and over. The 1983 movie, directed by John Badham was based on a science fiction plot written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes. It featured the impossible:  A teenage boy getting access to an international network using computers. Not in my wildest dreams I would have ever imagined that some years after, the whole world would actually be connected through something we call today the Internet.

Around the time the movie came out, I spent a whole summer building a small remote control plane. Working at night under a weak lamp light at my home´s balcony in Spain, I dreamt of being able to make it fly . I carefully built it using balsa wood, very light yet flexible.  The model was connected to a line. It was contained to fly in a circle, but offered no control. This is known as round-the-pole flying.

Fast forward 30 years and welcome to the era of flying robots. What if I told you that this Christmas, children from around the world are going to be flying remote control fairies , wing-flapping pigs or air-swimming fish? Toy stores have flying robots among their top toys for this 2013 holiday season. ¨It´s evidence that the high tech materials and components developed for complex flying robots are filtering down creatively to the new world of ¨civilian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,¨ CNN reporter Matthew Ponsford said in his recent article ¨All I want for Christmas is … a flying Robot.¨

The combination of inexpensive and lightweight motors, gyroscopes that help with stability, and long lasting Lipo batteries have made the toy industry a research lab for new and fun applications of flying robot technology. There is still time to hint Santa about the new trend.

Here is a list of cool flying toys:

Air Swimmers Remote Control Flying Clownfish

Flutterbye Pink African American Flying Fairy Doll

ROBOTIC UFO 3-Channel I/R Flying Ball RC Helicopter with Gyro

Angry Birds Air Swimmers Turbo – RED Flying Remote Control Balloon Toy

Westminster Flying Pig

BLUE Radio Control Flying Bird

Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter *Colors Vary

Remote Control Flying Saucer

Planes U-Command Remote Controlled Dusty Plane

John N Hansen Co. Remote Control Flying Spaceman

ARDrone from Parrot

Badboy Quadcopter With Camera


Additional Readings: 

Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones: Learn about, buy and fly these amazing aerial vehicles


Follow Kike Calvo on FacebookTwitterWebTumblrLinkedIn or Instagram.


Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can now buy Kike´s products: You can travel to Colombia with Kike:

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media