Fixed-wing drones have been a popular choice for things like environmental conservation and surveillance, and now Parrot is looking to expand their appeal in the consumer realm as well. On show at CES this week, its Disco drone does away with the popular quadcopter design in favor of a speedy wing-shaped model that can simply be tossed in the air to take flight.
The US government predicts one million drones will be sold over the coming holiday season. That's a whole a lot of thumbs jerking around unfamiliar joysticks, trying valiantly to prevent a meeting between their shiny new toy and the trees or local ferris wheels. But experienced pilots too will be looking to take their wizardry to new levels with the latest in high-flying hardware. With most consumer models carrying top-notch camera gear and a pretty friendly learning curve, drones made for rookies and experts aren't as different as they once were, though they do still have their own strengths and weaknesses. Let's put four of the big players side-by-side to see how they stack up.
Drone technology sure is moving fast. So fast, in fact, that French hardware company Parrot has already felt compelled to launch a follow up to last year's popular Bepop drone. The Bepop 2 retains the light weight and camera of the original, but can fly faster and longer with a flight time of 25 minutes, landing it in the same territory as leading consumer drones on the market.
Like many people who try (not) to use a mobile phone while mobile in an
auto, I have sound- and device-management issues. That's why I welcomed
the chance to try out the Parrot MINIKIT Neo 2 HD, a sleek hands-free
calling and speaker system that uses either Bluetooth or NFC to connect
up to two mobile devices at a time. Useable with or without its app and
either iOS or Android devices, it's a good choice for those who can't
afford a complicated stereo overhaul for their car and need to support
multiple phone operating systems.
As the latest in Parrot's line of smartphone-operated drones, the Bebop boasts a number of improvements over the AR.Drone 2.0 including a better camera, longer range, and an optional joystick-based controller. We put the Bebop in the hands of several quadcopter neophytes, tested it indoors (which is supposedly one of its strengths), and enlisted its 14-megapixel camera to capture some aerial footage. We also powered on Parrot's new Skycontroller, which adds physical controls and a more powerful Wi-Fi antenna for extended big range and potential FPV fun. So how did it perform?
Parrot is already known for its drones that fly through the air and roll/jump along the ground,
but until now the French company hasn't had much to do with the water.
That'll change next month, however, when Parrot releases its Minidrone