Parrot AR Drone 2.0
Parrot is a brand that is almost synonymous with the quadcopter industry; this is the company that showed the public that, hey, maybe flying remote-controlled drones aren’t so bad after all. That maybe, they could be marketed to the masses as fun toys that you can waste hours playing with. And market they did. The first iteration of the AR.Drone set the standard for future consumer quadcopters with its user-friendliness, functionality, and affordable price. The AR.Drone 2.0 version built up on the strengths of its predecessor, while its Elite edition (which we’ll be reviewing below) adds a new body package with three new camouflage styles (jungle, sand, and snow).
Under the Hood
parrot ar 2.0 drone elite editionFirst up, the AR. Drone 2.0 packs a mighty 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor with 1GB DDR2 of RAM. It runs on Linux 2.6.32. It also has a 3 axis gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, as well as pressure and ultrasound sensors, plus all the other bits and pieces that make your usual quadcopter lift off the ground.
Another important feature of note is the AR.Drone 2.0’s front facing 720p HD camera, which is something that you can’t usually find on drones at this price point (the Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 Elite Edition currently retails around £200 / $300 on Amazon and other online marketplaces). There’s also a downward-facing lower resolution camera, for those who like to take “bird’s eye” view videos.
For connectivity, you have WiFi and a USB 2.0 port. The drone can connect to a wide variety of devices, mostly iPhones and Android smartphones, but also to tablets and the Nvidia Shield (which is a portable gaming console of sorts).
Out of the Box Impressions
The AR.Drone 2.0 comes with both an indoor and outdoor hull. The indoor hull is basically an additional “shell” that covers the rotors’ blades. With this hull attached, the whole thing measures around 2 x 2 ft which is quite large for a consumer quadcopter. Nevertheless, the size ensures stability even on windy days.
Build quality is excellent. Electronics are tucked away in a lightweight yet heavy duty styrofoam shell, while the rest of the drone’s body is made out of tough carbon fiber tubes. In other words, this is a drone that is made to withstand the rough-and-tumble handling of newbie drone operators. It is built to last.
Unlike other quadcopters, the 2.0 does not come with its own controller. You need to have an iPhone, an Android smartphone, or any other WiFi-enabled mobile device. This is because of the fact that you need to download a specific app called FreeFlight which you will use to control the drone itself. This is quite a setback for those who don’t have (or don’t want to use) the aforementioned smartphones/tablets.
Once you have FreeFlight up and running, you’re now ready to take flight. For your first few flights, it is highly recommended that you use the indoor hull even when you’re flying outdoors until you get the hang of the controls. The FreeFlight app have settings for rotation speeds, altitude, and other such functionalities which you can play around with later.
Piloting the AR.Drone 2.0 is extremely easy compared to other quadcopters. Just press the “Takeoff” button on the FreeFlight app, and the drone will do all of the stabilizing and measurements to be able to lift off safely from the ground. Once it’s up in the air, controls are through dual joysticks (left stick for steering and right stick for turning the drone left or right and altitude control). Alternatively, there’s also a mode that uses your device as a “steering wheel” for turning the drone. Just angle it to the left or right, and the drone will immediately move towards that direction.
It’s important to note that the AR.Drone 2.0 does have a few quirks. For one, it is not radio-controlled- it is dependent on WiFi signals. This means that its range is pretty limited- around 50 yards or so which is still a lot of distance to fly. There’s also the fact that the controls have a few milliseconds of delay that can take quite some time to get used to. However, if you like a cheap quadcopter with high def camera capabilities and no-learning-curve controls, then the Parrot ARDrone 2.0 Elite Edition is the drone for you. No need to buy a separate GoPro to get amazing aerial footage, and no need to fiddle around with confusing controls- it’s a win-win.