Design of Parrot AR Drone
Do you recall what I said about it being feather light? Well inevitably this makes it somewhat difficult to fly with the wind. The construction of the main unit is polystyrene and resistant plastic – Strong enough to protect the onboard computer – but the fact that the spare circuit boards and motors are readily available suggests caution may needed in case of breakage. But you’ll be happy to hear I’ve had no such trouble so far.
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Two shells are provided; the inner offers complete protection for the blades, and is made entirely of polystyrene to absorb the shock of crashing. However, the outer hull offers zero protection for the blades, and only serves to cover the battery. Both are fixed by the magnet back of the drone. Removal and replacement is easy, this is a bonus as you’ll need to do it regularly in order to charge the battery. In all the pictures here you will see the inner shell being used.
Underneath you can see ultrasound sensors and an additional camera, these help with the detection of the ground level, you can also record or view its video feed (not in HD) . In front of the parrot ar is the main 720p HD camera. I have to say, it’s surprisingly high quality.
Parrot Ar Drone 2.0 Review: The Lo Down
The drone is by no means a pickup-and-play toy – it takes a good deal of practice to really get the hang of flying it. There will many bumps and scrapes along the way before you’re hovering over canyons and producing the next “Natural BBC World” masterpiece. My first flight was very unadventurous, the only bit of unused space in my small backyard:
The manual recommends not to fly in wind speeds of 15 kmh or more, but I even found a slight breeze could play havoc with the balance. In my part of the UK, a day without any wind is almost non -existent, so my test flights in the park were affected a bit.
When the wind dropped completely, the drone was a joy to fly , and after a little practice, I soon got the hang of it.
It’s just a shame that every minute or so, despite the best efforts of the board stabilization algorithms, a slight wind would either send it crashing to the ground, or simply refusing to go in the direction I sent it. I was, however, able to land it safely.
The inner hull does not get damaged easily. If they are damaged replacement shells are readily available, but at $ 40 (or up to £ 40 if you are in the UK) they seem a little pricey.
When inserting the battery, the device creates its own ad-hoc Wi-Fi network to which you must connect. After that, you are free to launch FreeFlight software.
The main software screen is a bit deceptive- the Academy has not been implemented yet, and instead takes you to a registration form to be notified when the feature is available. Other buttons provide; integration with web videos of users or page (also nonexistent) gaming applications, and quick access to your own media. The main part of the application you should be concerned with is Piloting , which is where you fly the thing!
Open pilot , and you will immediately see a device’s video feed:
Takeoff and Landing
All done with the touch of a button at the bottom center. I suggest you set the options before taking off for the first time though. There are two control sticks at the left and right of the screen. This Controls a left pitch and roll and is used in conjunction with tilt on your smartphone or tablet. Then you need to push the stick forward, and tilt the device forward – in order to have it move in that direction. I found this to be counter-intuitive, but his stick movement can only be activated with joypad screen mode options.The right stick controls altitude, and yaw (lateral rotation). If you’ve ever tried to control a helicopter, it is a similar concept, but much more forgiving.
This is a friendly beginner mode that adjusts the direction to your perspective instead of the drones. In standard mode, pushing the left in control will move the drone to your left. So you don’t need to navigate using the camera’s power on screen, or have to imagine it from the device perspective. In absolute control mode, pushing back always brings the plane back to where you are, pushing left always moves it to the left; regardless of what direction it’s currently pointing.
Giro is a new feature for the AR Drone 2.0. If you double tap the joystick to the right, this causes the drone to instantly make a mid-air somersault . This is a pleasure for everyone to watch, and a welcome addition.
Flight options are incredibly flexible. There are default settings for indoor and outdoor flight, and you can adjust everything from tilt to altitude along with angle and rotation speed.
When the device is placed flat in front of you, the flat trim between the display options resets the sensors. It’s best to always run this before a flight, especially if you just had one hit.
Although the box states that “games” additional are available for download, these are not configured to work with the AR Drone 2.0 yet. Expect compatible games to be released in the up coming months. Another feature is that full SDK available. This helps you connect, pilot, receive stream, save and download medias (photo and video), it also sends and play autopilot flight plans and updates your drone. A absolutely brilliant addition, although personally I have yet to try this.
Drone battery life indicated is 12 minutes , which was fine for my needs. However, if you’ve driven a long way out just to shoot in a special place this could be a downer. It takes 1.5 hours to fully charge. Alternatively, you could just purchase additional batteries for $ 40 each to get the most enjoyment out of this, which I suspect most owners do. I have heard of instances with parrot ar drone battery not charging but this has not been an issue for me.
When the battery drops too low, the emergency resource will kick in. This is supposed to help it land to prevent any damage. In practice, I found that when there’s about 10% of the battery left, the Parrot drone simply refused to take off again. Longer flights are the only way to use the last battery ebbs.
The drones Wi-Fi has a 50m range, but the interference will occur in built – up areas. This also happens when you fly it out of range, the connection will be cut and the autopilot will stabilize the flight in the place, waiting until you come back in range.
This is going to happen a lot at first, but an emergency cut out will occur at the first signs of a motor jam preventing a full-on crash. Recovery is usually as simple as putting it flat on the ground and picking it up again.
As well as the video signal relay for your driver, there are two options for recording. First, you can stream video and record directly to your mobile device- this is by far the easiest option – just hit record and you’re away. However, when the Wi-FIi signal is not ideal, the quality of the video as you can see from the sample flights can be a little sketchy.
For better recording quality, you can attach a USB device directly to the rc drone, just above the battery. This is difficult to get to work. However, and there is no way to verify that it works properly until the recording is complete. The USB stick must be formatted as FAT32, shielded with a metal case, and, moreover, the case should be grounded to the correct pin. You also need to allow time for the integrated onboard computer to save the video file. During this time you can continue to fly, but not as long. Ideally, you want to video for the first 5 or 6 minutes, then turn off the recording and keep flying until the battery dies.
If you buy the Parrot AR Drone 2.0
Despite having an inner hull, you’d be hard pressed to find a house big enough to fly this. The ideal environment for this is a windless desert. But I know that you will have a lot of fun with the AR Drone 2.0, and you’ll certainly turn heads anywhere you fly. As long as you avoid windy days, and give yourself plenty of room, you should be fine.