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Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter
by

If you’ve heard of Parrot then you’ll know they make some decent Bluetooth handsfree kits for cars.  So this is something totally out there for them.  This cool flying contraption is the marriage of iPhone and quadrocopter.  I finally get to use my overpriced iPhone, Touch, or iPad to control an RC flying machine.  I have to say, this is one impressive hi-tech aircraft.  It has 2 cameras and specs that can almost rival military grade UAV’s.  With all the sensors to stabilize it, flying is so easy it’s almost boring… almost…..  This thing can do a hands off hover by itself and you don’t need lots of practice to get this thing moving like RC helicopters.   When using your iOS device like an iPad, you can use the onscreen joysticks or use the accelerometer and tilt your iPad to steer it.  Did I also mention you can see what the Drone sees with the cameras.

Both the body hulls are made of EPP foam.  This foam is very flexible and can bounce and give during impact.  So it’s a good thing it’s made of this stuff.  It’s been dropped and banged against my wall many times and it always bounced back.  I have a few flying wings and planes made of EPP foam and they can take a hell of a beating.

Included in the box:

AR.Drone
Alternate shell
AC adapter with various ends to work in different countries
Balance charger
1000mah 10C Battery
Stickers
Manual

Right off the bat, I have to say that this thing is super cool.  It runs Linux and is actually a Wi-Fi access point.  You’ll see an adhoc network called “ardrone_XXXXXX” and you connect your iPhone or iPad to it via Wi-Fi.  Pretty slick eh?  You iPhone actually gets an IP of 192.168.1.2.  You download the Free Flight app from the Apple’s Appstore to control it. When you first connect to the drone with the iPhone app, it’ll check to see if it has the latest firmware and if not, it’ll update it.  There are other 3rd party apps like DroneControl and FlightRecord.  FlightRecord will record the video from the AR.Drone’s 2 on-board cameras.  Parrot SA also released AR.Pursuit which is an augmented reality game.

AR.Drone specs:
ARM9 468 MHz
DDR 128 Mbyte at 200MHz
Wifi b/g
USB high speed
Linux OS

For stabilization, it uses a 3-axis accelerometer and 2-axis gyrometer.  It even has ultrasound altimeters for vertical stabilization.  The 4 brushless motors operate at up to 35,000 rpms.  The drone itself weights between 380-420 grams depending on the body you use.

The only glaring negative with this device is of course you need an iOS device like an iPhone.  It would’ve been nice to have it work with my other RC 2.4ghz transmitters like my DX6i.  That would probably involve some serious hacking to get my Spektrum receiver to control all those motors and such.  I’m hoping for someone to come up with a plug and play adapter so I can use my standard RC transmitters.  I think other devices like Android and even computers should be able to control it eventually.  I saw a demo of it being control with a PC running Linux with a flight stick.  Not as portable an iPhone but it’s possible.

Another annoying thing is the battery.  It has a mini-Tamiya plug that is not common.  It’s basically a standard 1000mah, 11.1v, 3S, 10C battery in a hardcase.  I have tons of these batteries with deans or red JST plugs.  So all this means is I’m gonna have to make an adapter with the original battery plug so I can use my other batteries.  The “unofficial” batteries I use have higher C-ratings too, 15C to 25C.   You can get batteries for about $10 from HobbyKing.  Anything from 800mah to 1500mah should work fine.  The battery compartment can probably hold bigger batteries.  However, you’re going to make the drone heavier and also the motors might heat up if used too long.  10 to 15mins of flight time in the RC world is the norm because you want to let the motors cool down.  The included lipo charger charges at 1A so it’ll take at least an hour.  I would recommend getting some spare batteries and investing in a better charger that has more settings.  If you’re an avid RC enthusiast, then you’ll probably have one already.  I have a similar charger and it can charge pretty much every type of battery I own.

Modding the battery connector lead will void your warranty but at the same time give you access to much cheaper and better batteries.  I cut off the original battery connector on the stock battery and soldered a deans/JST plug on it to make an adapter.  This way I don’t do any modifications to the drone itself.

I use 800-1500 mAh batteries.  The 1500 mAh batteries fit perfectly into the compartment like the stock ones.  As you can see I made adapters with deans and JST connectors.  HobbyKing sells some ZIPPY Flightmax 1300mAh 3S1P 20C or Turnigy 1300mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack for less than $8.

The AR.Drone is one of the coolest toys I own.  It’s not challenging like flying a RC helicopter but it’s just one of those toys that impresses. It has definitely got my interest in quadrocopters in general.


My AR.Drone modded with LED strip lights.  The camera can’t really pick it up but it’s blindingly bright…

RC buffs love it cause it’s a flying aircraft.  Techies love it cause of the specs, and gadget boys love it cause they can use their iPhones.  This thing just brings together my need for gadgets and my love for RC air-crafts.  It’s perfectly executed and makes a great gift for anybody who’ll love and cherish their toys.

Where to buy:
Bestbuy

Here are some things you might buy to compliment your awesome toy:

IMAX B6-AC Charger/Discharger
ZIPPY Flightmax 1300mAh 3S1P 20C
Turnigy 1300mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack

My Review

AR.Drone Unboxing & Preparing

AR.Drone iPhone Setup

Inflight


2 Responses  
  • shahid ali writes:
    December 27th, 20102:29 amat

    i want to purchase this camera with halicopter

    please say me its price
    thanks

  • chris writes:
    December 27th, 20103:40 pmat

    Cheers for the review Ken, very helpful, especially the part about batteries. Good work.


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