The Parrot AR Drone helicopter
The Parrot AR Drone helicopter.
Parrot AR Drone
Distributor: Model Engines
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
The Parrot AR Drone helicopter, touted as the first merging of the worlds of RC modelling and video gaming (THR June, p.26), enjoys the advantages and suffers the pitfalls of any new pioneer into virgin territory – it’s a novel, refreshing and innovative idea, but probably needs the benefit of a bit more development and refinement to fulfil its potential.
Not only does the light carbon fibre and PA66 plastic quadricopter boast the ability to generate its own Wi-Fi network to enable control via an iPhone, iPod or iPad (via a free downloadable control app), but its inbuilt camera gives the operator a pilot’s eye view of the craft’s soars and sweeps via the same aforementioned touch screen controllers.
But before you take it to the skies, it first needs to be juiced up with electricity and paired to your ‘i’ device – and neither process is particularly intuitive or truly plug-and-play. One would certainly hope this will be streamlined by version two.
Once you do get it charged up and tuned in, it’s remarkably intuitive – and enjoyable – to control. While recommended for ages 13 and up, this reviewer’s seven-year-old niece had no problems mastering manoeuvre within seconds of it lifting from the ground. Mind you she was stubbornly resistant to handing over the controls once she had the hang of her first taste of chopper piloting!
And so started a good 20 to 25 minutes of flying. But then comes another rub. On a single a recharge of the supplied battery, that’s about all the flight time you’ll get. Yes, spare batteries are available (and would be highly recommended), but it does seem the joy of free flight is only just beginning before those rotors sputter their last and you’re back to finding a power point to give it an hour or two’s charge again. One would sure hope the battery life improves in the copter’s next generations.