Parrot AR Drones and MiniDrone Quadcopters

Parrot AR dronesThe Parrot AR Drones and MiniDrone quadcopters are manufactured by Parrot, a French technology company that develops voice recognition and other remote control software and hardware.

In addition to RC toys, Parrot’s product lines feature Bluetooth hands-free car systems and wireless home entertainment devices that can be controlled by mobile app.

Parrot recently introduced Flower Power. a plant monitor and companion iOS app, and at CES 2014 it debuted an insectoid RC toy called Jumping Sumo.

The AR Drone positions itself in the middle of the RC helicopter market, between the low-end toys and the expensive gadgets meant for serious hobbyists at the high end. It is versatile and capable, and easier to operate than the former, but it is also less expensive than the latter — the current version, AR Done 2.0, has a relatively moderate price for drones of this type. The AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition, which features higher-capacity batteries, obviously costs a little more.

Parrot AR 2.0 Drone

The AR Drone 2.0’s most distinctive characteristic, however, is its controller — or rather, its lack of one. Instead of the dedicated hardware that comes with most RC toys, Parrot offers a variety of apps that allow you to pilot the AR Drone 2.0 from your mobile device.

The basic app is AR FreeFlight, which uses the accelerometer function and wi-fi to regulate speed and direction. AR Free Flight also streams video back to the controlling device from the AR Drone 2.0’s built-in HD camera. Director Mode, an in-app purchase, adds functions and settings geared toward fine-tuning videos taken with the onboard camera.

You can store your videos and share them through Parrot’s Cloud-based service, AR Drone Academy. AR Free Flight is available on both iOS and Android, and a Windows 8 version is in the works.

In addition, iOS users can download more apps to add to their AR Drone 2.0 experience. AR Race 2 is a racing game with both solo and multiplayer options. AR Rescue is first-person piloting game that displays an augmented reality environment and determines your position in that environment through the drone’s position relative to a special target you can download and print out.

AstroDrone works on a similar principle and simulates docking at the International Space Station.

Parrot Apps

Parrot is also working on controller apps that will make the AR Drone 2.0 compatible with futuristic devices such as Thalmic Labs’ Bluetooth-based Myo armband, Zeiss’ Vision Cinemizer OLED glasses and Epson’s Moverio display.

As for the hardware itself, the AR Drone 2.0 is both lightweight and robust thanks to its cutting-edge expanded polypropylene construction. There is no need to attach a camera to it, as it has a built-in 720p HD camera that can store JPEG stills or H264-encoded video to a remote device or a USB flash drive.

Parrot also offers Flight Recorder, a GPS device that plugs into the USB port that allows you to control the drone by map view, and also enables Return Home mode, in which it returns to its takeoff point by automatic pilot.

At CES 2014, Parrot introduced the MiniDrone, a quadcopter no more than 8 inches wide and controlled by mobile devices via Bluetooth. The MiniDrone features two large detachable side wheels that allow it to climb walls and even move upside down on the ceiling before taking off, and Parrot touted speed, stability and precision acrobatics as its strengths.

Visit our Parrot AR Drones section here.