Drones: The sky's the limit

The flying toys market is evolving and today's RC enthusiast now has their eyes firmly on the skies as toy companies welcome a new invasion. ToyNews asks how retailers can take advantage.
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If there is one thing to take away from this year’s London Toy Fair, it’s that the Drones sector is certainly on the up.

It was the audible buzz of the latest gadgetry that filled London’s Olympia this year, as the venue played host to more drone and quadcopter specialists than seen in previous years.

From Flying Gadgets’ headline grabbing X-Voice, a drone that will respond to voice commands via a connected headset, to Bladez Toyz’ water blasting XBladez Quad, quadcopters stamped their presence on toy fair season, prompting the question: is 2015 the year of the drone?

Bladez Toyz has seen demand for drones increase by 450 per cent over the last two years, while the UK distributor of the Parrot AR Drone, Flying Toys has seen turnover rocket by a whopping 700 per cent since the launch of its Bebop Drone in January.

Billed by many as the ‘next iteration of the RC helicopter,’ and armed with ‘better stability and greater ease of use,’ the industry is confident that the popularity of the quadcopter will only continue to soar over the next 12 months.

“What we are seeing with drones is an evolution, rather than a revolution,” Wow Stuff’s Richard North tells ToyNews.

“Helicopters will continue to sell, but consumers are being rapidly educated on the benefits of drones and we expect to see them overtake sales of regular RC helicopters over the next two years.”

As the UK distributor of the TX Juice Pocket Drone, priced at £39.99, Wow Stuff is keen on leading the drone sector to toy retail.

But it is only in recent years that drones (formerly carrying price points upwards of £300) have made the shift from specialist stores to the shelves of toy retailers.

While smartphone technology and media buzz around concepts like Amazon’s drone delivery system have helped put the quadcopter in the spotlight, its current popularity at retail can really be boiled down to one factor: numbers.

“We are now starting to see drones get to a good toy retail price point,” explains Stuart Grant, buying director at The Entertainer. “A lot of the prices are now more mass market, hovering around the £50 to £100 mark, which is great news for the High Street retailer.”

The toy companies themselves are finding the once hobby-exclusive club of drone technology a much simpler one to broach, helping to pepper the sector with an array of family-friendly USPs.

Wall climbing, voice- controlled, HD camera- equipped, even water- blasting; all are becoming common terms associated with the toy drones market as manufacturers devise new points of difference in the field.

“The accessibility for us as a toy manufacturer to get in to the drone market has allowed us to create innovative drones at price points that slot nicely into the toy sector,” says Bladez Toyz’ managing director, Iain Morgan.

Back on the High Street, retailers are embracing the emerging variations.

“Our [quadcopter] sales have risen exponentially, and they will continue to do so due to the constant innovation in the sector and respect we receive from the drone community,” explains Taz Harney, PR manager at toy and gadget retailer, Red5.

And it is a thriving community indeed, and one that is growing larger by the day, says Flying Gadgets’ MD, Josh Farleigh.

“RC fans are definitely forming a large quadcopter community, especially?on social media,” he says. “People are desperate to find the newest products out there, and it’s a community destined to continue to increase.”

And while the tech fans and flying fanatics flock to the likes of YouTube to discover the latest in drone technology, we decided to save you the bother with an extensive look at the newest products to fly into retail this year. Check out the Drones sector guide on our March issue for more.

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