The Parrot AR Drone is the Multiplayer Flying Video Game – an innovative four-rotor helicopter (or rather Quadrocopter) that can be piloted indoor or outdoor over a Wi-Fi connection by an Apple iPad, iPod touch or iPhone & by pretty much anyone. Recently available in Australia & priced at $300.00, I was keen to check the latest in boys toys!
Recently I was given the opportunity test pilot the Parrot AR Drone for myself. Here are mine & a few of my friends thoughts:
Firstly, a bit of Background on the AR Drone – The Teaser Video:
Impressed? The first time I heard about it I was itching to get my hands on one. I was curious about its self levelling abilities, the camera feed and the iPhone interface – Additionally, I was keen to find out how easy it was to fly – Later on I let my girlfriend’s have a go at piloting.
How does the AR Drone work?
Controlling the AR Drone is very simple using the companion Free Flight (Free) app, you connect to this wireless network and begin controlling the unit which is done by moving the iPhone or iPod touch back and forth as well as side to side. The accelerometer in the iPhone and iPod touch are what makes this method of control possible. The AR Drones built in sensors ensure that it is always balanced (far easier than learning to ride a bike), aware of its altitude & also responsive to the slightest touch.
The AR Drone’s front and bottom cameras stream live images back to the control interface which in this case is the Apple iPhone or Apple iPod touch. Images are brought back to the pilot in real time allowing for a truly “Remote Controlled” experience.
The AR Drone comes with all you need to get flying in solo mode – If want to play multiplayer, you need a mate and another AR Drone. In the box there’s a large indoor hull providing protection to the blades and a sleeker outdoor hull. You also get the lightweight battery, charger and multiplayer reference stickers.
There also the AR Drone Australia Online Store – Where you can buy the AR Drone & even additional hulls & replacement parts – it’s not indestructible but at least Parrot give you the ability to buy parts from the start – good right?
Flying the AR Drone!
The AR Drone is designed for flying inside and outside. Basic flying is surprisingly easy, although it can be a difficult when trying do anything advance – like flying via camera itself with unit out-of-sight. In the Free Flight app, tapping the button at the bottom of the screen causes the AR.Drone to either take off or land – nothing else is needed, all you need to do is make sure the AR Drone is on a level surface. Once in the air it will begin to auto hover, now holding your thumb on a button on the bottom left side of the screen allows you to move the unit forward, back, or side to side by tilting the iPad / iPhone.
Turning side to side and adjusting your altitude is done by using the virtual joystick on the right. If you are crap at flying it there’s thankfully an emergency button on the top of the screen which kills power to the propellers – allowing it to drop.
Flying the AR Drone Inside:
I thought it would be great to film the girls during their first experience of flying the AR Drone. After a quick demonstration they were keen to pilot the AR Drone themselves. You’ll see below they had plenty of laughs flying it indoors:
I flew this baby down at Rushcutters bay in Sydney – Unfortunately, whilst filming the AR DRONE went out of range of the altitude sensors and began to climb very high (at least 10) – As a result I had to hit the Emergency Button to let it drop. Even though it fell 10 stories on to grass it there was not a single mark on the AR Drone, proving its carbon fibre structure is flexible enough to absorb shock with breaking – I ended up with a 5GB 1080P video that I am yet to be able to edit – When it has been done ill post it up – it’s pretty exciting & rather funny but clearly demonstrates how fantastic this device is!
For now, see the AR Drone in Outdoor Flight in the Official AR Drone Video :
Multiplayer – Augmented Reality
Parrot took development of the AR Drone’s Apple iPhone / iPad integration to the maximum by even including a multiplayer augmented reality application – turning the world around you into a video game.
Chase a fighter jet through your house solo or shoot down a friends AR Drone! Powerful processing lets the AR Drone integrate computer generated images directly into its real-time streaming video to create an augmented reality gaming environment complete with air-to-air missiles, interactive targeting systems, and fiery explosions.
Specs & Price:
– Super strong carbon-fiber tube structure
– 4 brushless motors, (35,000 rpm, power: 15W)
– Lithium polymer battery flys the AR Drone for 15 minutes & takes 90 minutes to recharge (3 cells, 11,1V, 1000 mAh)
– 93° wide-angle diagonal lens camera, CMOS sensor with 640×480 resolution
– 3 axis accelerometer, 2 axis gyrometer, 1 axis yaw precision gyrometer
– $299.99 from the online store
Verdict – 9/10
Pros: Easy To Assemble, Easy To Use, High Quality, Lasting Fun
Cons: Battery life, Waiting for the battery to charge,
Coolest to ever? Yes! Would I get one? Yes!
It’s easy to fly and any gadget lover, male or female will get hours of enjoyment from an AR Drone. Frankly I love how original the product is, it’s innovative design & by far it’s unnecessary features such as 2 cameras, virtual reality & multiplayer. However, Battery only lasts for 15 min and it takes 1 hr and 30 minutes to complete a full charge – understandable really, weighty is clearly an important factor here & I think Parrot have gotten the most out of the Lithium-polymer battery.