Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – overview
Parrot was better known for its Bluetooth car kits until it launched the original AR.Drone two years ago. Now it has followed up on the smartphone-controlled flying uber-toy with a second incarnation. Sporting the kind of features that would break the bank if you built it yourself, the AR.Drone 2.0 is part flying toy, part airborne tech powerhouse, adding new features and refinements that make it even easier to justify spending $449 on a plaything.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – video recording
The 720p HD front camera trumps the original’s VGA (640x480) offering, but ‘HD’ doesn’t always translate to cinematic footage. Our test footage was low on detail and slow to adjust to light changes, but still often spectacular owing simply to the bird’s-eye view. An onboard USB port lets you record to a stick rather than your phone, taking the strain off the Wi-Fi connection.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – eye in the sky
Flying the AR.Drone 2.0 in first person view (FPV) takes some practice, and although the front-mounted camera has a 92-degree (diagonal) field of view, it could be wider. It’s easy to be blissfully unaware of an obstacle just outside your peripheral vision, ready to take down your quadrichopper. This is especially true indoors where all your precious possessions are now potential hazards.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – design and build
While coffee cups wouldn’t be our first choice of material for most gadgets, the AR.Drone 2’s polystyrene hull is just the ticket, making it both lightweight and extremely resilient. It probably floats, too, though we weren’t game to try. The indoor hull protects the AR.Drone 2.0 from too much of a hammering when you plough it into your mum’s prized china. Sorry mum.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – gaming
Not only will the AR.Drone 2.0 blow your mind, it will also augment your reality. When combined with targets, stickers or other Drones you can play all manner of ‘imaginary’ games from racing to dogfighting using the FPV on your smartphone or tablet screen. You may find you’re limited to the single-player games unless you can convince a buddy to buy one too.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – control
The control system can be tailored to your preference, including using tilt control, though we favoured the full joystick option. Autopilot modes specifically for video are promised on the packaging and advertising, but are nowhere to be found on the AR.FreeFlight 2.0 app, so you’ll have to pan, travel and er, crane by hand. Naughty Parrot.
Remote control flying usually requires you to put yourself in the virtual pilot’s seat, but in beginner ‘absolute mode’ the AR.Drone 2.0 moves in relation to you, no matter which way it’s pointing; tilt the phone away from you and it flies away from you, tilt the phone towards you and it flies back.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – in flight
The most eye-catching new feature of the AR.Drone 2.0 is its acrobatic skill. The new version can now do impressive aerial flips on demand (see video above). Even beginners can get in on the action, as the command for a flip is a simple double-tap of the screen. Just make sure ‘Flip’ is turned on in the app preferences.
As with any good aircraft, the AR.Drone 2.0 (app) comes with plenty of switches and sliders in the (virtual) cockpit. You can adjust control style, how high it can fly, how fast it can manoeuvre and even switch between indoor and outdoor modes to get the best performance out of your new toy.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – verdict
The new Drone makes good some of the shortcomings of its predecessor, making it easier to fly and more rewarding to own. Better video capabilities mean its easier to show off to friends and we’re still impressed by that awesome flip. Although it’s early days we’re hoping the new version will trigger a flood of new third party apps to increase its appeal. It’s still a lot to pay for a toy, but what a toy it is.