By Ryan Gallagher
Drones might be a source of political controversy because of their role in "targeted killings" in places like Pakistan and Yemen. But a children's toy version of the deadly unmanned aircraft has been a big hit on Amazon.
A six-inch metal model of the Predator RQ-1, listed "for ages 3 and up," has attracted attention in recent weeks because of satirical user reviews celebrating the merits of teaching toddlers about "flying death robots." Some users angrily complained that the toy should be removed because it was "inappropriate," and soon after it became "unavailable" for purchase.
But a spokesperson for Amazon told me by email this week that the item wasn't removed from the store - in fact, it sold out. At the time of writing, only one of the mini drones is currently available for sale via a third-party seller on the Amazon Marketplace, for an inflated price of nearly $50. (They normally retail for between $5-$10.)
To most parents, buying a small child a model drone to play with is probably not an appealing prospect, hence the avalanche of negative reviews on the Amazon product page. The use of drones for surveillance on American soil is currently prompting a nationwide backlash.
Perhaps more than anything else, the toy Predator is an acute example of how drones are becoming embedded in Western culture. The replica, manufactured by a California-based subsidiary of Hong Kong's May Cheong Group, is part of a series of toys made as part of a line called "Tailwinds," which also features fighter jets, stealth bombers and an Apache helicopter.