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Christmas Gift Guide

The future of drones

They'll pick you up

No runway, no problem

They'll spy without your help

They'll have VR capability

They'll think like a person

They'll follow you onto social media

They'll be perfectly capable of chasing you down

They won't even look like drones anymore

They'll see your pores

They'll maraud on the high seas

They'll be harder to lose

They'll know where you are

They'll fly much longer

They'll be besties with your cell phone

Your average consumer drone is more of a menace than menacing -- a giant plastic mosquito your neighbor's kid can barely control that keeps getting stuck in your trees. But drone makers have been working on improving their products. The drones of the very near future (and sometimes, of right now) are so capable, it's almost scary.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

This Ehang drone is big for a reason: It's meant to carry a person of up to 220 pounds. It charges up in as little as two hours and boasts a flight time of more than 20 minutes.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CXNET

The Ehang 184's "fail-safe" system automatically lands if any components malfunction, and can take off and land with one-click control. Oh, there's even a trunk big enough for a 10-inch backpack.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

This is an Ehang Ghost Drone 2.0. It can be programmed to remember its relative position to you and then maintain that distance as you move.

But the coolest feature of this drone isn't even in this picture ...

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

The company also plans to release a set of VR goggles with head tracking. The result: You can control the drone's camera position just by moving your head.

Caption by / Photo by Ehang

The Wingsland drone shown here will come with an optional object-avoidance module, so it can fly around things that stand in its way. It's also made of a cool carbon-fiber composite.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

Tencent, China largest Internet service portal, recently announced a partnership with Qualcomm and drone-maker Zerotech to launch the Ying drone, a flying robot that's optimized for online sharing.

"This drone allows you to fly around, capture video and then share it directly with social media sites," Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf said earlier this year.

Caption by / Photo by Qualcomm

The racing drone scene is an actual thing, and it's only going to get more popular in 2016. This Furious 320 from Walkera can hit a top speed of 75 mph...and record in respectable HD video while it's at it.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

The Belgian-designed Fleye doesn't boast a mind-blowing flight time -- 10 minutes, maybe -- but what it lacks in endurance it makes up for in safety. Its round shape and gridded cage are designed to reduce risk of personal injury. The makers of Fleye call their invention "the world's safest drone."

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

Sure, 1080p is really nice-looking. But you know what's four times as nice? 4K. And that's what an increasing number of drones are delivering, albeit at a steep, pro-level price.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

Air drones are so 2015. Think freshwater drones, like this SeaWolf, which can house a GoPro via a front mount. The newest version of the SeaWolf has a waterproof controller built to be used with one hand.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

This is the Walkera H5 LTE, which has both cellular and GPS capability. You couldn't lose it if you tried.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

With GPS capability, a drone can track the location of a person who is, say, trying to run away from a new robot overlord.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

Flight times are a huge challenge for drone makers; it's no fun setting up a flight only to have your drone crash 10 minutes later. But! This is a Walkera hexacopter that can fly for more than an hour, thanks to a GenSmart methanol motor that charges the battery as it flies.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET

Many drones come with companion controllers, but increasingly drones, such as this Ehang Ghostdrone, work with an app designed for everyday smartphones.

Caption by / Photo by Leslie Gornstein for CNET
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