We played with the Parrot A.R. Drone

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[Originally posted on Tegato]

A short while back I was invited to attend the local launch of the A.R. Parrot Drone in Fourways where I got to spend some hands on time with the drone itself.

It wasn’t the first time I had seen the drone as the guys had quite a large stand at E3 last year but this was the first time I had some hands on time in a large enough space to see what the drone can do.

But first a quick catch up of what the A.R. Parrot Drone actually is, it’s a quad blade helicopter styled flying machine that you can control with either your iPhone or iPad.

The drone has 2 camera’s mounted on it, one at the front and the other underneath and you can then view these feeds on the iPhone or iPad.

The drone connects to the phone using WiFi which means you can control the drone from a reasonable distance and use it to easily spy on the hot neighbour next door… oh wait apparently that’s not in the press pack, but you know you’re thinking it.

So after we had heard the obligatory speeches I got my hands on an iPhone and started the thing up, to get going you simply push a button to take off and it spins into gear and rises up to around 5 feet into the air, the first thing you notice is that it’s awesome and then that it’s not entirely silent so maybe you shouldn’t use it as a spy drone after all.

I then tipped the phone slightly to the left and instantly the drone banked left and screamed into a wall… so the steering is obviously a little sensitive. Once I had regained control of the drone I decided to see how high I could get it to go, at around 4 stories (it was a big area) I had to admit that I chickened out as it’s made from polystyrene and no matter how well it’s made if that fell from that height it would no doubt break, not to mention there is an emergency stop button that would bring it crashing down to earth if I accidently hit it.

So instead of destroying it I gently brought it back down to earth and attempted some stunt flying around everyone’s heads and the pillars in the room. The drone isn’t easy to control at first but you do get the hang of it quite quickly and it is incredibly addictive whizzing it around the area and checking the screen to see the view from above everyone’s head.

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Which by the way reminds me, guys if you’re going bald don’t try hide it, especially now that we can see you from up above, oh and girls we do enjoy the low cut blouses so thanks for that.

So in a nut shell the drone is a lot of fun but yes it’s a toy and nothing more. You couldn’t use this for any solid purpose as it cannot carry anything, it has a terrible battery life (5-10 minutes) and it’s not quiet by any stretch of the imagination.

Would I buy one? Well yeah I most probably would if I could afford it but at R2 999 it could be out of most people’s budgets for a toy right now. However on the plus side the local distributors have done well to keep the price reasonable as it sells for $299 in the US before tax.

Oddly enough the biggest selling point of the Drone wasn’t shown at the launch which is the ability to engage in an Alternate Reality game with the drone, basically while flying the drone you can watch the screen of the iPhone or iPad and then fight against computer opponents or even against other drones.

Check out this video below to see what I mean.

The Drone, spare parts and extra batteries can be purchased directly from the Parrot online store and yes it’s the same Parrot as that Bluetooth headset in your car.

Last Updated: April 26, 2011

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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