It’s easy to see why the Parrot AR.Drone has received much attention since it was unveiled in January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is, after all, a toy helicopter that you control via WiFi with your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It’s fun. The AR.Free Flight software puts basic controls for the AR.Drone on the screen of your device. While it works on an iPad, it’s designed for the screen size of an iPhone or iPod touch. If your device has motion sensors, you can apply a tilt to make the AR.Drone fly in the same direction.
As you might expect, flying indoors requires a lot of space and minimal obstructions. This is when Parrot suggests using the ‘indoor hull’, with circular bumpers that ring the propellers and protect them. The indoor hull did indeed do its job, but within 2 days our had fractured in several places. We repaired the first few fractures with superglue and let the repairs sit overnight, but the next day the hull would break in a new place. Parrot offers ‘mending tape’ for about a tenner and even has an online video about how to fix the hull. If yours is beyond repair – ours eventually broke into pieces – you can buy a replacement for about $50,-. At least the main body of the AR.Drone, including its propellers, is forgiving.
We accidentally crashed several times outdoor, and the propellers and body stayed intact. In low wind, out flying proved much easier than indoor flight and allowed the AR.Drone to climb quite high. It was also much more fun as the drone is agile and can fly quickly in any direction. Charging the battery takes 90 minutes and delivers around 15 minutes of flight. The software displays a battery gauge and once it hits 12 percent, the drone will gently land.
iPad & iPhone users says…
Once you’re comfortable with the controllers, the AR.Drone is a lot of fun to fly. The protective indoor hull suffered frequent fractures, but the rest of the toy was quite durable. If you’ll be flying a lot, a spare abbery would come in handy. Ultimately, the success of the AR.Drone will hinge on what third-party apps and games are created for it.