The latest enemy of the drone industry? LEGO.
The tiny brick toymaker now makes a play set as part of its LEGO City collection called “Sky Police Drone Chase.”
The LEGO police drone play set includes a police helicopter — but not just any helicopter. This one has a firing net shooter intended to catch a tiny LEGO drone, which also comes with the kit. You’ll also get three mini-figures, a police officer, a “crook” and a golden mini-figure statue.
According to the description on LEGO’s site, the story of the play set goes like this: A crook is trying to steal the gold statue with his drone.
And that kit set off a firestorm in the drone industry, which tends to always be on edge when it comes to negative, fear-mongering press around drones. And now, industry leaders fear that fear-mongering could be subconsciously set in kid’s minds as they play with the LEGO police set.
“Call in the police helicopter and fire the net shooter to catch the crook and his drone before he escapes with it,” LEGO’s description states. “It’s another exciting day in LEGO City!”
The kit has prompted outcry from drone industry advocates, such as dronemaker DJI’s VP of Policy, Brendan Schulman.
Drones have falling prey to fear-mongering since pretty much forever. The Federal Aviation Administration tracks drone sightings and has received thousands of reports over the past few years. Many have misinterpreted those “sightings” as drones doing something nefarious (a la, stealing a gold statue), when in reality, anyone can report that they sighted a drone — even if it’s just a photographer trying to make some aerial photos.
“There’s no doubt that some of the sightings are problematic – about 3 percent of the sightings included in the dataset caused manned aircraft to change course or take evasive action,” said Chad Budreau, Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs at AMA in a prepared statement. “That is 3 percent too many and needs to change. At the same time, we must remember that the vast majority of the drone sightings are just that – sightings.”
Others fear drones crashing into them, or spying on them.
The drone industry has largely tried to avoid restrictions on piloting drones. But the stereotypes created by even the most innocent of toys could subconsciously stoke fears that drones are bad, prompting the industry to worry that the government may further crack down on where drones cannot fly.
And then, there’s one person who thinks that LEGO toys are, in fact, MORE dangerous that drones:
Other toymakers have taken more pleasant approaches to drones. A company called Flybrix makes build-your-own-drone kits for kids, which are actually made out of LEGO bricks. The $99 Tello drone is a high-quality drone designed in partnership with DJI with kids in mind. Even Barbie has her own drone.