Parrot has always had a history of manufacturing wireless products, since 1994 when they were founded in their headquarters while drinking wine and eating snails in Paris, France. This company specialized in making products for the car industry that involve voice recognition. In 2010, they realized making cars that listened to you wasn’t fun anymore and introduced the first Parrot AR Drone. Since then, they’ve iterated and improved their successful first model and introduced the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0.
- Weight:5 lbs
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 23in x 23in x 5in
- Flight Speed: 12 m/s
- Flight Time: 12 minutes
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Flight Controller: Mobile Device
This is a great quadcopter for beginners looking for something easy to fly while having the functionality and feel of a RC helicopter, which are way more expensive. It’s simple to maneuver and to fly safely, with smart technology that helps you avoid running into objects or flipping over accidentally. While it’s easy to fly, it requires various safety precautions to be taken and a large amount of space to fly safely. Aside from that, it’s a fun quadcopter that’s controlled by using a tablet or smartphone. It includes a pair of built-in cameras that are capable of taking videos and photos, all of which can be easily activated with your mobile device. The Parrot AR.Drone retails for $299.99. There’s also a Power Edition which includes a pair of extended batteries for $369.99.
Just like the first version, the quadcopter drone and the four rotors are all made from plastic. It comes with a pair of styrofoam shells, that are meant to be used when flying the quadcopter indoors when you want to scare the children, girlfriend or pets (just kidding, don’t do that). The shells surround the rotors with rings so that in case you bump into things, the rotors are protected (and the item you bumped into isn’t shredded to pieces.) The other shell is for outdoor use, leaving the rotors completely exposed. These styrofoam shells are easily slipped over the frame of the quadcopter and only a small amount of pressure is needed to keep them secured in place. No power switch is included on the quadcopter. Instead, it turns on automatically when the battery is plugged in, placed in its slot and the shell mounted.
There is no controller included with the AR Drone. It creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that enables it to be completely controlled by either an iOS or an Android device. So obviously, you’ll need to have either a smartphone or a tablet to pilot the drone. Download AR.FreeFlight app and you’re on your way. The device doubles as a point-of-view display for the cameras that are installed on the quadcopter. The default method of maneuvering the quadcopter is a two-stick control system. The left stick is a part of the touch screen that is able to be moved in four directions. This is used to control the direction and elevation of the drone. The right stick is another part of the touch screen used to turn the drone right, left, backward or forward. If you’re using an Android device and don’t like the touch screen controls, you could purchase the Nvidia Shield. It allows you to use physical analog joysticks, giving you a more responsive feeling that a joystick delivers.
Aside from controlling video recording and the piloting of the drone, the software also updates the firmware of the quadcopter. The firmware is also what allows flights to be geotagged and mapped. It can also enable videos and photos to be uploaded to Parrot’s AR.Drone Academy service, where users can then browse videos and photos posted by other people.
The cameras in the AR Drone face forward and down and allow you to record anything seen by it. The cameras are a huge improvement since the first version (VGA 640 x 480), capable of recording in 720p quality at 1024 x 720. The drone has no storage for photos or video. All of the storage and recording is managed by the mobile app, so all photos or video taken by the cameras are added automatically to the user’s tablet or smartphone. There’s also no sound on the videos primarily because any sound that it would have recorded would be overpowered by the loud noise created by the rotors of the drone or the wind chopping caused by air turbulence (most quadcopter’s don’t record sound). While the indoor video quality is good, it is about the same as the quality of videos taken with a cheap smartphone.
Check out this video of the best user submitted videos taken with the Parrot AR Drone 2.0.
It is interesting how intuitive taking photos and shooting videos can be while the AR.Drone 2.0 is flying. When it is in the air, the drone has a high level of stability, which is due to the increase in onboard sensor sensitivity (an upgrade from the AR Drone 1.0) and the addition of an air pressure sensor. While it’s easy to fly once you get the hang of it a few crashes will be inevitable. It’s a good idea to have the indoor shell on while you’re learning how to pilot the quadcopter properly. If a crash does occur, the quadcopter will shut down automatically, preventing the rotors from damaging anything they might hit after it crashes. The app will also indicate to you that a problem has occurred. Most people will not need more than a few hours of practice to master the controls of the quadcopter.
In order for the AR Drone to remain in the air, a good amount of energy is required, so you’ll need to change or charge their batteries often. Like most quadcopters on the market, this probably the biggest drawback. You only really have 12 minutes of flying time provided by a battery that is completely charged. An AC adapter is included for the charging of the batteries, which will take roughly 90 minutes to completely charge. On the plus side, two higher-capacity batteries are included with the Power Edition of the AR.Drone 2.0, providing you with a total of 36 minutes worth of power. Make sure to charge all these batteries when you’re taking it out for a flight!
A new feature of the mobile app is the ability for the quadcopter to perform flips and barrel rolls with the use of a stunt command. The user simply needs to tap twice on the screen. While these are fun maneuvers to execute (and see), they will drain your battery very quickly. After performing several flips and flying for five minutes, less than 30 percent of the battery power will remain. This stunt function will stop working after the battery goes under a specific amount of power. This prevents the drone from losing power during a flip and crashing straight down. Don’t worry though, the quadcopter can still be flown until the battery power gets extremely low. If the battery power gets too low, the AR Drone will attempt to land on its own.
See the Parrot AR Drone doing a flip:
If you are interested in something between a cheap toy for hobbyists and an expensive helicopter for enthusiasts, you should give the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 a try. It is still considered by many to be the best quadcopter, so if it falls into your price range, you might be pleasantly surprised.