The drones of CES 2018: air selfies, dolphins and typhoons

Tighter government regulations and GoPro's failures notwithstanding, drones continue to prove popular with users, and at this week's Consumer Electronics Show we've seen a host of flying machines being demoed in Las Vegas.

Some are brand new, some are upgraded, and some are ones we've had glimpses of before, but here are the best drones from CES 2018 that you need to know about – especially if you're thinking about making a purchase this year.

1. AirSelfie 2

The AirSelfie originally began life as a Kickstarter project in 2016, and now at CES 2018, its successor has emerged. The new model features upgrades to the camera, flight time, and field of view, while keeping everything in the same compact shell that can fit in the palm of your hand (just about). It's controlled by a phone app and features options you wouldn't expect in a drone this size, like the ability to hover in one spot.

The main purpose of the drone, as its name suggests, is to scoot up into the air and take selfies of you and your friends. However, it can be used to buzz around like a normal drone, taking photos and videos with its 12MP camera (the range is around 60 feet or 18 meters). It features 16GB of on-board storage and can be yours later this year for around $300 (roughly £220 or AU$385).

2. Tello

If the kids have been pestering you for a drone then you can do a lot worse than the Tello, a drone from Chinese firm Ryze Tech featuring tech made by Intel and DJI. You get a 360-degree camera, live streaming capabilities, flight stabilization and a simple-to-use control system aimed at younger people – the youngsters can even test their Scratch coding chops to configure flight patterns for Tello.

Best of all, it's slated to come out for just $99 (around £75/AU$125) when it appears sometime after March 2018 (it'll be launching in China in January). The drone offers 13 minutes of flight time between charges, takes 5MP snaps and videos, and weighs in at just 80 grams or 2.8 ounces.

3. Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

For those serious about drone photography, the new Typhoon H Plus from Yuneec will definitely be of interest, packing a 1-inch 20MP sensor in its camera, as well as a high aperture lens and the ability to record 4K video at 60fps. Low light performance has been boosted from the original Typhoon H and the drone can manage stable flight in wind speeds up to 30mph.

Automatic obstacle avoidance is built in of course, as you would expect from a drone of this pedigree, while the controller is Android based and has a 720p display so you can see exactly where your drone is heading. All of this marvellous drone technology can be yours sometime in the first half of 2018 for $1,799.99 (around £1,335/AU$2,295).

4. Volocopter

Sure, taking 4K movies and selfies with drones is all very good, but what about autonomous flying machines that can take two passengers from A to B? CES 2018 marked the first time the Volocopter flew in the US, made through a partnership between the German firm of the same name and Intel, which provided some of the internal computing components and tech know-how.

The aircraft features 18 rotors and an impressive level of redundancy should one or more of them fail. This is still some way off going on sale – and will cost a fortune when it does – but test flights are now happening and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has been in one of them. The era of flying, self-driving taxis might be approaching faster than you think.

5. PowerDolphin

Do drones have to be airborne? Not so, says PowerVision, the maker of the PowerDolphin, that can scoot across the surface of your favorite pond or lake and take photos and video (in resolutions up to 4K) as it goes. In fact, its capabilities go way beyond that – it can deliver lifebelts to struggling swimmers and even map the underwater surface below thanks to some built-in sonar scanning technology.

What's more, the drone is able to automatically detect fish from a distance of 131 feet or 40 meters and then automatically release a line and bait to snag them, making your fishing trips much less hands-on experiences. A return-to-home mode is built in, you get two hours of use between charges, and the device is set to go on sale in April for €799 ( roughly £705/$955/AU$1,215).

6. AEE Selfly

Another drone designed to handle selfie-taking duties, the AEE Selfly actually folds away to become a phone case that'll protect any Android phone or iPhone between about 4 and 6 inches in size. It's two useful gadgets in one.

It's small and compact, but it can still take 13MP pictures and 1080p video, and can hover in place to make sure your group shots always look as good as possible. You can pick one up for $130 (around £95/AU$165) this spring.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.