Fans of Parrot's AR.Drone quadcopter have been anticipating the arrival of the AR.Drone 3.0 for the past couple of years, but it now looks like the next major addition to the French company's fleet is going to take the form of a little something known as the Bebop Drone. Among its improvements over the AR.Drone 2.0 are a better camera, longer range, and an optional joystick-based controller.

The Bebop features a 14-megapixel/1080p camera (as opposed to the 2.0's 720p model) with a 180-degree field of view, that's isolated from the copter's vibrations by rubber shock absorbers. Additionally, a 3-axis digital stabilization system keeps the camera pointing in the same direction, regardless of subtle changes in the aircraft's orientation or movements caused by wind. Footage and stills are recorded on an integrated 8 GB flash drive.

As with Parrot's previous drones, video is streamed live to the user's iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, which is also used to control the drone via onscreen toggles. For the Bebop, however, users can also purchase the optional Skycontroller. It features a shaded receptacle compatible with most major brands of mobile devices, so that users can still watch the video feed and access certain functions. Its main controls, however, are actual physical joysticks and buttons.

It also features an amplified Wi-Fi radio and four antennas, which boosts the drone's operating range up to 2 km (1.2 miles). What's more, virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift can be plugged into the Skycontroller's HDMI port, allowing pilots to feel like they're actually up in the quadcopter.

Thanks to the inclusion of a GPS module, the Bebop can autonomously follow a pre-programmed flight path, plus its "Return Home" feature automatically flies it back its point of take-off when requested.

It also features a vertical camera for seeing what's right underneath it, and an ultrasound sensor for detecting the proximity of the ground when taking off and landing. Its 1,200-mAh lithium polymer battery provides approximately 12 minutes of flight time.

Both the Bebop Drone and the Skycontroller should be available as of the final quarter of the year. Pricing has yet to be announced, although the drone can be seen in action now, in the video below.

Source: Parrot via Mashable