How One Man Built a Drone Out of Legos

Chris Anderson’s company, 3-D Robotics, was inspired by kids’ toys.

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“This should not be possible – these are cruise missile controllers,” Chris Anderson thought, staring at the unmanned aerial vehicle on his dining room table. It was 2007, and he and his kids had just built a homemade drone out of Legos, which he describes in the video above. In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jim Fallows at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific conference on Wednesday, Anderson said this experience was one of the few times in his life when he has gotten chills. “Everything I know about the world had changed,” he said. Now he runs a drone manufacturing company based in Mexico.

While this adventure in off-script toy building had a happy ending, Anderson shudders to think of what might have happened. “Technically, [drones] are regulated as weapons and export controlled, and technically, we weaponized Lego that night,” he confessed later in the interview. “I think about [going to] congressional hearings with my nine-year-old and explaining how that happened.”

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Emma Green is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the National Channel, manages TheAtlantic.com’s homepage, and writes about religion and culture.

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