Look anywhere in the news at the moment and you can be sure to find something written about ‘Drones’. Be it military, commercial or one of the many models aimed at the home market. The drone we have for review is the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0.On paper the AR.Drone 2.0 looks like a dream come true. An intelligent quadcopter with a HD camera on board. No controller is necessary, but you must have a compatible device such as an iPhone, Android handset limited Windows support.
We were supplied with the Power Edition which avails you with two high capacity batteries boasting 36 minutes flying time.
The drone itself is extremely lightweight, which the prop arms being made from metal, but the rest of the body made from plastic. There are two hulls, an inside and outside both made from polystyrene. When changing the hulls, you are required to select which you intend to use on the software, this alters the ascent speed and height limits among other things.
Before using the drone, you are required to charge the batteries, following this, you connect the battery inside the selected hull. After connecting up, the propellers will pulse in series to indicate they are working and also as a self test. You are then required to download the necessary controller app. Once installed you will need to connect to the drones wireless network. If all goes well you well see the cameras point off view on your screen.
Taking off is reasonably simple as this is controlled by a single button press. However you should familiarise yourself with the Landing AND emergency buttons, as in light wind the drone can be picked up and blown sideways erratically. This happened to me several times and you should be ready to land IMMEDIATELY.
Assuming all goes well, you will find the drone hovering a few feet off the ground happily. On the whole, we found this was the case, but on half the occasions, we experienced ‘drift’, this was anything very slight to a massive amount. In some cases this was inside a large warehouse with no apparent wind. In other cases this was outside.
On one occasion the drone lifted up into the sky (under my control) and then without warning went off on a little journey into some nearby trees. The journey is detailed in the video below.
Assuming all goes well with the hover, you can then proceed to tentatively navigate the drone around three dimensions!! There are several options for doing this. The default option is using the smart phone or tablet to move the drone by tipping it to the left, right, front and back. The drone then mimics this movements by doing the same and thus moving in the relevant direction. Again GREAT CARE needs to be taken with this type of control as the drone can very drastically veer off. Regaining (some) control is reasonably simple, by taken your thumbs off the controls. The drone then returns to a self controlled hover in whatever space it is currently residing in. This is reasonably easy to use as a control method, but it really relies on your using the ‘first person’ camera view to work properly, as if you look at the drone itself, it can be very confusing when it is flying towards you.
There are other options for controlling the drone, for instance using directional buttons and it’s in built compass, so whatever direction the drone is facing, it always moves in relation to where you are pointing.
I was really impressed initially with the drone, as being able to record footage of a flight is something amazing in it’s own right. The downsides are the video quality is 720p and stills are also 720p which I though was too low, I was hoping for at least a 4mp still shot to give some saving grace to the no so great 720 video. There is no image stablisation on the craft, thus it cannot be used sensibly for any kind of aerial photography, but at it’s price you wouldn’t expect it to.
The drone is perhaps just too light and gets knocked around in the air quite a bit. There were many occasions where it simply fell out of the sky without warning, this was probably caused by radio interference, but all the same it is very easy to crash the craft and no amount of polystyrene and crash proof propellers can protect it forever.
All in all, the AR.Drone 2.0 is a great little craft, but be prepared to pay out for repairs and spares regularly as you will crash it and sometimes these crashes can be fatal. The method of control is clever, but I would have been happier with traditional RC controls, with the backup of the smartphone control, as in bright sunlight you can’t see the screen anyway and can be flying blind.
I look forward to the upcoming Parrot Bebop Drone which I believe upgrades the camera and improves image stabilisation.
Sincere thanks to Steve Puddle at Mischief PR for supplying the drone to us!!