One flying, flipping gadget caught the eyes of media attendees at the first event on Sunday at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The spinning quadrocopter, which flew up and down and side to side, was Paris-based Parrot's AR Drone 2.0, a gadget controlled by iOS or Android smartphones or tablets, which lets users see what the drone sees in stunning 720p HD as it flies up to 165 feet in the air.
Just tilting [the phone or tablet] forwards and backwards, the drone will move this way and the other way, said Parrot's marketing manager Julien Galou as he demonstrated the device. When you're flying, what you see on your screen is what the drone is seeing in high definition. It's basically as if you were in the pilot seat. You can really get immersed and fly above the trees and the houses.
Galou said the whizzing, whirring drone will become available in Q2 2012 for $299.
When you buy one, you get two different protection systems: one for indoor and one for outdoor, Galou said. So if you have expensive inside stuff, you won't break anything. It is very protective. You won't break your children, for example. But if you want a more aggressive type of flight, you have the outdoor version which comes without protection but better aerodynamism, so it can fly faster and at better angles.
The drone is completely controlled by the iOS or Android device, from the flying to the recording. If you like the video you took, say of Paris's rooftops, you can easily and instantly upload it to YouTube. The AR Drone 2.0 also records geographical information so you can keep track of where your videos were recorded.
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Our big goal with this is for all the pilots from all around the world to share their videos and pictures, and locate them on the map directly with geolocation services from their smartphone or tablet, Galou said. [We want] a map of the world full of the videos of the AR drone 2.0 pilots.
So how many videos can you shoot? The videos are stored remotely and stored through the WiFi. It all depends on the device you're using. However, the short battery life of about 12 minutes will restrict your flight sessions. The battery is rechargeable and it takes about one hour to charge, but what happens at the end of 12 minutes? Will your Parrot AR Drone simply fall out of the sky?
[No], you're good to go, Galou said. The big thing with that is that it's automated. If you lose the WiFi or you don't have any batteries, it will go down to the ground progressively by itself. You have a pressure sensor, you have ultra sensors, a 3D compass, and all that together makes a robot that stabilizes itself.
The AR Drone 2.0 will still record video at night, but videos are not recorded in night vision. To find your drone, you can either wear night goggles or follow the green and red lights on the bottom of the drone.
Galou answered every question we had for him, except one: How does it perform that flip?
Shhhhh, he said. That's a secret.
The video for the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 begins 17 seconds into the video.