First-person view flying is nothing new in the world of drones.
Enthusiasts have been sending live feeds from their quadcopters’ cameras to dedicated headsets for years, and more recently, companies like DJI have released FPV goggle accessories that beam crisp “cockpit” images from drone to eyeball in a split-second.
Even so, Parrot has pulled off something noteworthy with the Mambo FPV: it made FPV drones truly affordable. For a shade under £130, you get everything you need for first-person flight, bar an iOS or Android smartphone - and if you’re reading this, let’s face it: you’ve almost certainly got one of those.
Here's this budget-friendly flyer fares.
The Mambo is described by Parrot as a “minidrone”, and it’s easy to see why: small enough to land on your palm and so lightweight you’ll barely feel it on there, it’s a plasticky, spindly thing when compared to the likes of the (much pricier) DJI Spark.
Even with the included propeller guards attached, you feel that one big crash would spell a one-way ticket to the knacker’s yard. That’s the trade-off for that low asking price, we suppose.
It comes supplied with a clip-on video camera, twin-stick remote controller, USB-chargeable battery and an all-important pair of FPV goggles.
It’s into this headset that your smartphone – running Parrot’s companion app, natch – slips for FPV viewing, with its screen providing the live feed. It’ll accommodate handsets up to 160x78x9.8mm in size, with screens from 4.5in to 6in, which includes all but the largest, chunkiest devices.
With adjustable lenses and straps, the headset should also accommodate most sizes of head. We had no problems getting a snug fit on our domes and a clear view of the screen.
The Mambo is pitched as a nippy, agile drone that can be accurately piloted around enclosed spaces thanks to its simple controls, self-stabilisation and FPV setup. In reality, we struggled to keep it on as tight a leash as we’d like.
Despite the stabilisation tech, the drone tends to drift around a lot, even increasing and decreasing altitude when not under direct control. This means that rather than zipping it around like a Red Arrow pilot, we more often found ourselves frantically trying to reign it in from crashing into walls, floors, ceilings and, at one point, the North Sea.
The light weight doesn’t help things when flying outside, either, as even small amounts of wind drastically affect its speed and controllability. It’s not all bad, though: in calm conditions and plenty of space, the Mambo FPV proves itself a fun gadget to fly, particularly in FPV mode.
The simple two-stick controls and automatic take-off and landing allow you to concentrate on the meat and potatoes of flying for the duration of the battery life, which isn’t long: you’ll get about eight minutes of air time with the camera and prop guards attached, and 10 minutes without them. The drone can be recharged by standard mini USB, however, which means it’s easier to top up than some other models.
Video and photo quality is grainy, distorted and plagued by colour noise, and in our opinion the camera is best reserved as a tool for FPV flying, not for aerial photography.
Parrot Mambo FPV Verdict
The Mambo FPV is far from perfect - but it’s well worth remembering that it only costs £130.
OK, so that’s not peanuts by any stretch of the imagination, but for an FPV drone bundle with everything you need except a smartphone, it’s currently unmatched. DJI's entry-level Spark will set you back £500, and that's just for the drone alone.
So, despite our disappointment with its unreliable flight skills (and short flying time), the Mambo is not without its charms. Just be aware of its limitations, and realise that kick-starting your drone-racing career will eventually require investment in some pricier hardware.