For those who have been wondering–even a little bit–about the technology behind the Lawfare Drone Smackdown, Gizmodo UK has this handy review of the Parrot AR 2.0 drone, which is the robotic base off of which all drones competing in the Smackdown will build. The Parrot is actually cheaper in the United States than in Britain–right around $300. Having now flown the drone quite a bit, I have quite a lot to say about it myself, but I’m going to refrain for now–as my review would tend to reveal, shall we say, a mosaic of information shedding light on my strategy in the Smackdown. After the competition, I will write my own discussion of the technology in question–one focused perhaps overmuch on the drone’s payload problem (it can’t carry much in the way of weapons systems) and its many weak points from a defensive point of view (it really wasn’t designed to fend off attacks from other drones).
For now, let’s just say that I agree with the main points in this review. The Parrot is, indeed, a superior toy:
What Is It?
The second iteration of Parrot’s remote-control flying drone quadrocopter, equipped with a wide-angle HD cam for personal “surveillance” activities.
Who’s It For?
Anyone who wants the best flying toy available, period. Or anyone who wants to spy on their neighbours through their bedroom window (I won’t judge).
It’s a quadrocopter that looks like a flying water boatman. Bright orange and blue, it’s about the size of four iPads or 0.5m squared — not exactly subtle, but a lick of black paint should sort that out.
Simply awesome. This thing is incredibly easy to control. Press a button and boom — it takes off and hovers there, right in front of you. It comes with more control modes and options than you can shake a stick at. Don’t want it to go above 3m? No problem. Want to send it up 100m? Now that’s where it gets interesting, as don’t forget it streams video and photos direct to your phone or tablet, too…
The Best Part
The best bit about the Drone 2.0 is the non-directional “absolute” control; one of the big upgrades over the previous iteration. Just tilt your phone or tablet in the direction you want it to go, and it goes. No messing around with which direction its nose is pointing in, just incredibly easy and intuitive control — you’ll look like an absolute master in about three minutes.
It’s not really a flaw with the drone so much as it is our puny British houses. It’s just too big to use indoors — unless you’re absolutely minted, I guess. It has an indoor shell that keeps the rotors from hitting the walls, but its downdraft blows stuff literally everywhere. Best used outside, when it’s not raining, that is.
This Is Weird
The drone senses how high it is at low altitude using ultrasonic distance sensors on its belly. Sometimes, like when you’ve just flown over a tall object and back on level ground, if you don’t set the max altitude high enough, the drone suddenly thinks it’s too high up. It then drops, pronto, meaning I almost winged it into the side of my car on a couple of occasions — set it above 3m when you’re outside and you’ll be fine.