AR.Drone 2.0. Parrot New Wi-Fi Quadricopter

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4/12/2013 8:56:58 AM

Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0 may well be the ultimate geek toy - a Wi-Fi-equipped, smartphone-controlled quadrocopter, with cameras that stream live video to your iOS or Android device's screen. The updated version even does acrobatics. You're totally going to flip...

Price: $565


Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

The 720p front camera trumps the original Drone's VGA offering, but 'HD’ doesn’t always translate to cinematic footage. Our test video was low on detail and slows to adjust to light changes, but still often spectacular thanks to the bird’s-eye view. An onboard USB port lets you record straight to a thumb drive.

Flying the Drone in first person view (FPV) takes some practice. The front-mounted camera has a 92° diagonal field of view, but it could helpfully be wider. It’s easy to be blissfully unaware of an obstacle to the side ready to take down your chopper - especially indoors where your mum’s priceless china becomes a potential hazard.

Various control options are available, including accelerometer-based tilt control, though we favored the onscreen joystick option. Switches and sliders in the virtual cockpit enable you to adjust how the AR.Drone can fly, how fast it can maneuverer and even switch between indoor and outdoor modes. A new pressure sensor helps it stay airborne.

The basic Autopilot allows the Drone to hover above the ground, but although further autopilot modes specifically meant for video recording are promised on the packaging and advertising, they’re nowhere to be found on the FreeFlight 2.0 app - naughty Parrot. That said, an update, with full autopilot, is promised for later this year.

Disposable coffee cups wouldn’t be our first choice of gadget material, but the Drone’s polystyrene body is just the ticket - both lightweight and resilient. Of the two hulls, the outdoor version (left) is better for speed, while the indoor one (above) protects the Drone’s propellers from getting too smashed up when you hit your mum’s china. Again.

Pilot's manual

Flipping out

Flipping out

Flipping out

Of all the 2.0’s new features, its acrobatic skills are the most eye-catching: it can now do impressive aerial flips on demand. And, given that the command for a flip is a simple double-tap of the screen, even total beginners can get in on the action, Who needs the Red Arrows, anyway?

Absolute control

Absolute control

Absolute control

Remote-control flying usually requires you to put yourself in the virtual pilot’s seat, but in the new Absolute mode the Drone moves relative to you, no matter which way it’s pointing - tilt your phone away from you and it flies away; tilt it towards you and it flies back. It’s a handy, intuitive control scheme that’s great for novices.

Get real(er)

Get real(er)

Get real(er)

Not only will the AR.Drone 2.0 blow your mind, it’ll also augment your reality (hence 'AR’). Combine apps with targets, stickers or other Drones, and you’ll be able to race, chase and dogfight around the living room through your smartphone. You may find yourself limited to the single-player games if you can’t convince a mate to get one too.

Video recording: 720p@30Fps (Front); QVGA@60Fps (bottom)

Motors: 14.5W/28,500 RPM brushless

Battery: 1,000 mAH LiPo

Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex A8 @ 1GHz

Gyroscope: 3-axis, 2000°/s precision

Connectivity: USB2.0; Wi-Fi (b/g/n)

Weight: 380g (outdoor hull); 420g (indoor hull)


·         Ratings: 5/5

·         With HD skills and AR smarts, version two of this unique tech toy offers even more flying fun

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Vs Blade mQX Quadcopter

Price: $139.99


Blade mQX Quadcopter

Blade mQX Quadcopter

We’ve not reviewed it yet, but while this tiny quad lacks the video and AR of the Drone, it’s much cheaper - and at just 75g, it could well be more nimble in the air too. It’s totally manually radio controlled - no smartphone apps here, so if you want to do a flip, you’ll have to learn to do it the hard way. Feeling really DIY? Pick up the self­-assembly kit and save yourself the cash. Bargain! (Time investment: not included.)

Parrot A.R.Drone 2.0 – The first hour

1.    No assembly required and the indoor hull just slots on…

2.    … but the battery did take 90mins to charge

10.  Let’s fly! It’s great, but our rookie pilot skills aren’t

18.  Multiplayer AR stickers included. Who else has one?

22.  Recharging time already! Get the spare batteries

24.  Wow! It flips! That’s seriously cool

30.  USB recording is neat, but not as neat as the flips

42.  A bit too windy today. Watch out for that bush…

51.  50m max range – it just hovers until we get closer

59.  Time to eat already? Just one more flip, please…

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