Most of the time, if your drone falls out of the sky and breaks into a dozen pieces, you're going to have a really bad day. But with Airblock, the new modular drone from the Shenzhen-based robotics startup Makeblock, you can snap the whole thing back together and start flying in seconds. The central processor, motors, and rotors are all enclosed in a soft styrofoam frame, and the pieces fit together using magnetic connectors. The unit also comes with a large styrofoam base, and you can reconfigure the pieces used in the drone to make a hovercraft that zips over smooth ground or calm water.
The Airblock is available today through Makeblock's Kickstarter project. It's the company's fourth Kickstarter, and this one passed its funding goal in less than 24 hours. Makeblock is part of an emerging Maker movement in Shenzhen, which has built a reputation as the Silicon Valley of China.
Makeblock focuses heavily on STEM education, and the Airblock, which it's calling a "starter drone" fits that agenda. You use an app to control the drone, but you can also program aerial routines or create new stunts inside the app using a drag-and-drop coding language similar to Scratch. Along with tweaking the software, you can assemble the physical pieces into any combination your imagination can conjure up, although most of the new designs we came up with didn't stand a chance of actually getting off the ground.