Consider this a sign that drones have hit mainstream acceptance. A rather large handful of Lego sets feature drones.
For readers who understand the commercial use cases of drones, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find that the $50 “Police Mobile Command Truck” Lego Kit features a drone as just another piece of police equipment.
And for people who watched “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which heavily featured drones in the plot, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the $20 matching Spider-Man Lego Kit also features a drone at its centerpiece. Unlike the small drone figure in the police kit, the Spider-Man version features a buildable drone with four rotors and two stud shooters.
But perhaps more delightfully is how Lego’s kits have allowed drones to seamlessly seep into everyday life. Just look to the $40 LEGO® Friends Kit dubbed “Stephanie’s Sailing Adventure,” which is centered around Lego’s on a sailboat, to find an innocuous drone mini-figure — perhaps to photograph their day out on the waves. That kit portrays the drone as just as essential to a sailing excursion as a walkie-talkie, binoculars and life vests.
And Lego isn’t stopping at flying drones. Its $20 Classic Creative Ocean Fun kit contains an assortment of ocean-themed items like a whale, turtle, seahorse, ship, yellow submarine, and, yes, an underwater drone.
And the list goes on. It’s not difficult to find Lego sets that feature drones (there are plenty more examples than just these ones).
So why the uptick in Lego sets featuring drones? Lego designers, which are primarily based at the company’s headquarters in Denmark, continuously create and test new Lego sets. And the company said it’s constantly seeking to “come up with the idea for an exciting new theme.”
Drones, it seems, are exciting and new. Police-themed Lego sets, or a generic ocean theme, have long been a staple of Lego kits ever since the company was established back in 1932. Pop a drone in there, and a police drone kit suddenly becomes exciting and new.
The past few years of Lego and drones
Of course, while drones are becoming pretty common in this year’s Lego kits, the company has had its eye on drones for some time now. Perhaps most notably was back in 2018, when the LEGO Group’s Creative Play Lab partnered with the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada for an eye-popping display at the 2018 LEGO World expo in Copenhagen, Denmark.
For that expo, the pair built a display that allowed children to arrange LEGO elements into a shape of their choice and watch as a group of miniature drones takes flight to mimic the shape and color of their creation in mid-air. The system used tiny sensors and gyroscopes to tracks when the children move, twist and bend their designs, faithfully replicating any shape alterations as an in-air animation.
Dr. Vertegaal, head of the Human Media Lab and professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, said he believes that drone technology could potentially unlock new realms of interactive teaching about physics.
“We have created a technology that works to blend the digital and physical worlds together right before children’s eyes,” he said. “We believe this technology has the potential to take experiential learning to an entirely new level.”
The following year, Lego stirred up some controversy with its LEGO police drone play set. Unlike the 2022 police-themed Lego kit, where the drones aid police, that 2019 kit featured a crook trying to steal the gold statue with his drone. That kit featured police as the good guys, and drones as the bad guys.
And far below Lego started making its own drones, some creative enthusiasts built Lego drone kits of their own. In 2016, a fan built a drone racing Lego kit.
Why do so many Lego sets in 2022 feature drones?
Despite being a relatively old company, Lego is focused on the new. Its 2021 revenue was up 27% from the year prior (despite the fact that many kids were likely home in 2020, buying Legos). Lego is not a toy that’s gone out-of-date, even if it’s something that the parents of today’s kids played with.
And kits like those featuring drones might have something to with it. In fact, Lego said that, in 2021, half of its portfolio was made up of new products. 2021 also was Lego’s largest-ever portfolio, adding in its annual report that the new designs “keep it relevant to shifting consumer trends.”
If Lego is any indication, drones are still hot these days.