In late 2014, Hasbro released the Nerf Combat Creatures Terradrone. At a $79.99 price point for what was essentially a lightly reworked Combat Creatures Attacknid (which sold for significantly less), the reception to the Terradrone among Nerf fans was lukewarm. Still, the idea of remotely firing Nerf darts at an opponent wasn't without merit. In fact, DIY-types have been doing similar things with Nerf guns for years, making all manner of remotely-operable turrets and self-propelled tanks.
Of course, these machinations are largely one-off designs that are neither easy to make nor readily available to the average consumer. Nor are they necessarily easy to operate or fix when something goes wrong. And then there's the price... while it might theoretically be more cost-effective to hobble something together out of spare parts from your garage, the cost of building a remote-firing Nerf blaster from parts you'd actually have to purchase wouldn't be cheap--we're talking batteries, servos, wiring, a remote controller of some type, a chassis, and possibly some type of self-propulsion. Then there's the skill and time required to figure it all out and put it together. Before you know it, you're well into the hundreds of dollars in parts alone, not to mention the cost of your time (and potential frustration).
But we know for some folks, the thrill of designing and building their own, remotely-operable Nerf cannon is half the fun.
And for those clever souls, that will always be an option. For the rest of us--those of us who want something simple, reliable, safe, fun, and hopefully not super-expensive--we need something a little more well tested, and little more mass-produced. Fortunately, Hasbro hasn't given-up on the idea of bringing remote-controllable Nerf blasting to the masses.
And much to our surprise, they have just announced the next iteration of the "Terra"-branded, remotely-controllable Nerf blaster with a live video feed: The Nerf N-Strike Elite TerraScout RC Drone! Here's the official description, straight from Hasbro:
NERF N-STRIKE ELITE TERRASCOUT RC DRONE Blaster
(Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $199.99/Available: Fall 2016)
Get the drop on your friends with the N-STRIKE ELITE TERRASCOUT RC DRONE! This remote controlled blaster drone features high-speed, all terrain tracks (not for use in wet conditions) for quick strikes and an 18 dart clip for remote bombardment. Kids can use the live video feed featured on the controller’s LCD screen to scout the battlefield, locate targets and plan their attack. Maneuver the angle of the drone’s blaster remotely, and fire a single-dart by pressing and releasing the trigger, or hold down for extreme rapid-fire blasting in battle. Record audio and 720p HD video to an SD card (not included) and share epic battles and campaigns with family and friends. The controller will slide onto the back of the drone’s blaster and snap into place for storage. This product is for use in and outdoors. The drone also includes tactical rails, compatible with N-STRIKE ELITE accessories, each sold separately. Controller requires 4 AA batteries (not included). Includes blaster, camera, remote control with LCD screen, rechargeable NiMh battery, charger, and 18 N-STRIKE ELITE darts. Available at most major retailers nationwide and HasbroToyShop.com.
All of this is well and good, but we need to address the elephant in the room: that $200 price. The Nerf N-Strike Elite TerraScout is twice as dear as the most expensive Nerf blaster to-date, the Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire (which debuted at $99.99, and can now be had for $79.99), and only $50 less than the most expensive Nerf product of all time, the Nerf Battle Racer ride-on toy. That's a tricky place to be, considering most of the expensive Nerf products to-date have been somewhat of a let-down, or at the very least, not seen as a particularly good value. So a $200 price point for something bearing the Nerf name might be seen as a questionable purchase. But it's helpful to think of the TerraScout as something other than just a Nerf blaster. Consider, for instance, the "starer" version of DJI Phantom 3 Aerial Drone with a built-in, 720p camera and live video feed.
This "toy" costs over $500--or more than 250% the cost of the TerraScout. The Phantom can fly, sure, and it's arguably better made. But it can't fire Nerf darts, and good luck sneaking up on anyone with it. To our way of thinking (and without having one on-hand to test just yet), the TerraScout strikes a fine balance between being a "toy" and being something "hobby-grade."
Of course, price isn't the only story. Here are a few other thoughts we're having about the Nerf N-Strike Elite TerraScout RC Drone:
- The name is derived from the "Terra" part of the Terradrone, and the "Scout" part of the Battlescout ICS-10. Clever.
- The TerraScout is clip-compatible--cool! But imagine an 18-round clip hanging off to one side. How's that going to work out? Will it remain upright? Will it get spun around on door frames?
- A live video feed on the remote controller? SUPER cool! We've played with (and enjoyed) the somewhat similar VMD Cannon Commando, but that one didn't have a camera. The real-time video feeds of the TerraScout adds entirely new play options.
- $199? That's way beyond impulse buy territory. But it's not crazy for what you're getting. But it's surprising the TerraScout wasn't held until Christmas for a bigger reveal. Oh, and there's no SD card included in that price. Ouch.
- Some Nerf fans probably won't like the 720p video spec, but that's more than enough for casual videos. No one will be shooting nature documentaries with a TerraScout.
- Tactical rails? These probably weren't super necessary (a Redditor suggested a flashlight maybe?), but could be fun to add something for an even cooler look (just don't add the camera from the Battlescout--that would be TOO meta).
Honestly, the TerraScout RC Drone has us pretty excited. There's no doubt it's expensive. But the technology and capability on offer make the price seem reasonable, if not exactly an impulse purchase. And frankly, we need Hasbro to keep pushing the envelope with the Nerf brand. Not every product bearing the Nerf name needs to be a semi-auto, flywheel-based sidearm or a squishy backyard football.
It's true that we've been critical of third-party, Nerf-branded products that failed to live up to our expectations of what a Nerf product should be, but the TerraScout doesn't feel like one of those products developed without input from the Nerf design team. It looks exactly like what a Nerf dart-firing RC drone should look like, and we expect it will perform just the same. We can't wait to get our hands on one and find out for ourselves!