Parrot has launched an upgraded version of its AR.Drone, giving the iOS-controlled four-blade helicopter a new piloting system, a high-definition camera and the ability to share captured video and images wirelessly.
The French wireless company’s AR.Drone 2.0 quadricopter, launched in Melbourne today and available in June for $349, focuses on usability and stability with an improved ‘Absolute Control’ mode which enables users to sync the gyroscopic movements of an iOS device with the drone. An in-built 3D magnetometer provides the drone with the user’s reference point, allowing it to move with the tilt of an iPhone or iPad.
Parrot has also introduced a new app, AR.FreeFlight 2.0, for controlling the AR.Drone 2.0, watching recorded images and video, accessing AR.Drone Games and interacting with other owners through the ‘AR.Drone Academy’.
In addition, AR.FreeFlight 2.0 enables video footage and images to be uploaded to YouTube and Picasa from within the app. Parrot introduced this functionality because, although the original AR.Drone did not support video capture, users uploaded over 12,000 in-flight videos to YouTube via a third-party app.
Parrot describes the AR.Drone Academy, launching with the AR.Drone 2.0 in June, as a “place to meet and share content with the AR.Drone community. Obtain the geolocation data of the best flight zones, watch other pilots’ videos and access their shared flight data.”
The AR.Drone 2.0 features both forward- and downward-facing cameras providing live video footage to the controlling iOS device via Wi-Fi.
The forward-facing camera sports 720p HD video recording that can be streamed onto the controlling iOS device, or stored on a USB key via an on-board USB port. The downward-facing one is a 60fps vertical QVGA camera for ground speed measurement.
In Absolute Control mode, beginners can control take-off and landing with the press of a button, and when the iOS device is not being touched the quadricopter settles to a hover.
Powered by the same lithium-ion polymer battery as the original drone, the AR.Drone 2.0 has a 12-minute flight time and requires 80 minutes to charge.
The new model has two different hulls for indoor and outdoor use. The indoor, firm-foam hull protects the Drone’s four blades from impact against objects and walls, while the outdoor hull leaves the drone’s rotors uncovered.
Macworld Australia had a hands-on trial with the AR.Drone 2.0 at the launch, and from our first impressions it’s a heap of fun. We’ll let you know our in-depth thoughts in our full review in the coming weeks.