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Parrot AR. Drone: the test of the drafting

The editorial office of Belgium-iPhone was able to test – for a day – the new AR. Drone officially presented by the French manufacturer Parrot in June and marketed since this week exclusively by the FNAC chain of stores in France or via the manufacturer's online store for orders placed from Western Europe, the Dom- Tom, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and some Asian countries. Note that the United States will only be able to benefit from it next month.

First, a few words about Parrot. It is a company headquartered in Paris. Since 1994 (when the company was founded), it has designed and developed wireless devices for mobile telephony. Parrot is developing the widest range of Bluetooth hands-free systems installed for the car on the market. Its Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity offer is aimed at all mobile phone users and also to manufacturers and equipment manufacturers in the automotive industry (OEM). It also offers many multimedia products designed by renowned artists. The company is listed on the stock exchange (Euronext) and today has 450 employees worldwide and generates 85% of its sales abroad.

Parrot, which initially had the idea of ??developing a remote-controlled car, preferred to choose a different direction and offer an absolutely unique product. This is how the CEO of Parrot Henri Seydoux decided that this future product was intended to fly but should also be controllable in a way "Revolutionary". This is how the quadricopter AR.Drone was born by having the particularity of being controllable from an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPad, not thanks to a Bluetooth connection but rather by using a Wi-Fi connection ad -hoc – understand by l that it is the machine which puts and receives Wi-Fi waves like a real modem or a wireless router! -.

By its specifications, the AR. Drone is very light. Delivered with two carnes – one for the exterior and one for the interior -, the machine weighs respectively 380 grams in mode "Exterior" and 420 grams in mode "Inside" and a size of 50 cm. It has 4 type motors brushless (brushless motors, magnets) allowing the propellers to rotate at a speed of 35,000 rpm (15W). The motors are connected to a motherboard – also acting as an inertial unit – composed of chips MEMS (micro-electromechanical) and an ultrasonic altimeter to make the Drone as stable as possible. The processor integrated in the motherboard is an ARM 9 chip, cadence rate 468Mhz, accompanied by 128Mb RAM-DDR memories at 200Mhz speeds.

AR. Drone is also made even more unique by integrating two cameras: one is frontal (located on the front of the carne) and is of the type VGA with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels – offering a wide angle lens of 93. The second camera is located on the bottom of the camera and is of the type QCIF with a lower resolution of 176 x 144 pixels. The two cameras allow you to retransmit video images in streaming on the screen of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (via the application dedicated to piloting AR. Drone). However, it is not possible to record your own films during flight sessions from the application. However, it is possible to take screenshots using this original built-in feature on iOS (simultaneous clicks on the buttons "Home" and "Power" agreeing that this is proving dangerous!).

like the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, the flying object integrating an accelerometer but also a gyroscope, these two functionalities integrate the inertial guidance system of the machine.

Regarding the battery, it is of the type "UL2054" and allows autonomy between 12 and 15 minutes of flight depending on the hull used. The carne intended for a use "Inside" makes the device consume more because of its greater weight. You will have to wait 90 minutes to recharge in order to have autonomy "Complte". Hence the advantage of having several spare batteries – if you are too impatient – but which involves ironing the body, a battery is sold for 30.99.

When you order AR. Drone, you have the option – for an additional 15 – to have it delivered the next day, which can come in handy when the weekend is approaching and you are especially in a hurry to be able to test it.

Once the package has been received, here is what you find in the "big" box: AR. Drone, its two hulls, including that of the exterior coated with the color chosen during your order (exists in three colors: green-orange, yellow-orange and blue-orange), the battery, the charger, an AC adapter (fitted with several foreign sockets), stickers placed on the interior cabin (during fights between several drones) and the user manual for ?Quick start?. In photos it gives this:

Once the battery is recharged and placed in the drone, the latter is really ready to fly. Everything is therefore assembled at the origin (a very appreciable time saving). You will only have to choose the desired hull according to your type of flight (indoor or outdoor). Here is the drone coated with its two dresses and from all angles:

With car for outdoor flight:

With inner flight hull (you will notice that it was designed to protect the propellers, it is very light and looks like frigolite):

The two ribbed carnes:

The camera is located on the bottom of the machine (right in the middle). On the contours are available two functions of "Reset" (reset) and "A pair" (unpair), the two large white circles constitute the altimeter operating ultrasound (frequency of emission: 40Mhz and having a door of 6 meters), as well as a port representing a ?USB port? but which is not ultimately not one! It would in fact be a port presumably reserved to connect the motherboard of the drone (diagnostic). On a day of use, we never had to worry about these features present on the underside of the device. However, we have learned – through the manual – that the functionality "A pair" will be used in future device updates (they will be done over Wi-Fi!).

One of the four propellers seen up close:

One of the four type engines brushless. Notice how the contacts are very apparent – not protected – and give a certain feeling of fragility. In the event of a landing or impact caused by a crash, the plastic "foot" located on the underside will however cushion:

The presentations are over, let's take action!

When you have chosen your type of flight (indoor or outdoor), all you have to do is connect the battery of your drone, it will turn on automatically (there is no ignition button on the drone and the only way to turn it off is to disconnect the battery).

Don't forget to download the iOS application dedicated to piloting the AR. Drone, the latter is free to download on the App Store.

Once the application is installed, you will need to connect, from your iDevice, to the Wi-Fi of your drone:

photo 3

As soon as the connection is established, you can launch the application dedicated to piloting the AR. Drone "AR. FreeFlight ". Get ready to take off!

Make sure to place your drone on as large a surface as possible (not just next to a wall or a tree). If you're going to steal from inside your house, avoid coins with precious objects.

Here is how your steering center looks from your iDevice:

photo 2

The big button right allows to raise, lower and rotate the machine on 360, while the smallest button, located on the bottom left, will validate your piloting when you are going to direct your drone: understand by l that you will have to use the acclimatization of your iDevice to move the machine forwards or backwards: it is therefore necessary to move your iDevice to move your drone! The functionality located in the middle at the bottom of the screen will allow your drone to take off or land and this automatically: when your drone is located 10 meters high and you activate this function, it lands vertically descending each time in steps of one meter for a soft landing? The ?Emergency? function located on the top of the screen allows you to shut down the engines instantly in the event of a large loss of piloting control (when you accidentally approach a too close to a road for example, this can be interesting). That said, this functionality may also prove to be irreversible, your drone, if it is active while your machine is placed at high altitude and therefore risks falling too heavily? Although the drone is made up to absorb a maximum of shocks during fall, it will nevertheless be a matter of staying cautious and keeping control of the craft permanently. The other three features shown on the left of the screen are the quality of the Wi-Fi reception signal between the drone and the iDevice, a parameter mode allowing in particular to activate piloting. "Advanced" (the two joysticks combined into one) and the possibility to switch the display of the cameras (note that when one camera is mainly active, the other camera is displayed in a small dial at the top left of the notch.

During the first flight, the discovery of the way to pilot is rather disconcerting. We do not yet realize that the acceleration of her iDevice will actually serve as the main feature and when we see it (the battery is almost empty), this requires some adaptation adaptation: 4 or 5 flights will be necessary to begin to master the piloting of the drone. It will just be frustrating to wait for 90 minutes of battery charging continuously …

During the first flights, you will certainly be entitled to this:

If this happens to you, be very careful when you are brought up on a tree, prefer to shake the branches using a brush handle for example and place yourself below to try to receive it! If it stays hooked and you manage to get your hands on it, do not shoot the drone – at the risk of tearing off the propellers and the motors that go with it – but rather carefully withdraw branch by branch. In any case, do not take a risk. A drone, even if it is sold at a high price, does not deserve a broken leg or arm …

So take your time to learn to control the craft, fly it low altitude during your first flights and do not suddenly turn your iDevice at risk of loss of control. Be careful also, when you are going to rotate the machine 180, the controls will be reversed and especially beware of the wind: the drone is light but despite its "tools" allowing to make it very stable, the force of nature will not fail to send it to you in unwanted places! therefore avoid flying when there is a lot of wind.

When you start to master piloting the drone, this is when you will start having more fun. You do not hesitate – carefully – to prick spikes up to 18Km / h and under a door of about 50 meters. Beyond this limit, the drone will no longer be able to correctly receive the Wi-Fi waves coming from your iDevice and will arise automatically.

Regarding the height, it was not possible for us to go beyond 12-13 meters. Be aware that this distance is already relatively large and that already passes 5 meters in height, this requires a certain mastery of piloting and especially the least possible wind!

Some photos taken during our tests:

In conclusion, we have had a great afternoon you were pleasantly surprised by AR. Drone. As much, it seemed fragile to us when we had it ?Out of the box? as much as it turned out to be robust during heavy falls and impacts against trees and house facades – during our first tests -. We hardly used it inside because it is obviously much less practical and also dangerous. However, we have found that the hull dedicated to indoor use is less controllable when used outdoors: it is more subject to wind and the drone loses some control without counting the fact that it makes the drone more energy efficient.

Controlling the machine – requiring a little training – is a lot of fun. After the first 4-5 flights, we will quickly turn our iPhone "in all directions" to make him perform many acrobatics. It will nevertheless be a question of executing the commands "slowly" since his iDevice : The aircraft responds instantly to the desired course change.

Parrot has not neglected safety: when the drone comes into contact with a foreign body: the aircraft instantly cuts off and falls to the ground. Be careful however not to touch the propellers because although it does not really cut, it is not good at all (so do not allow use by children).

Even if the price may seem high (299), the AR. Drone is a way to have more fun with your iDevice and also to take its first steps in the world of aromodling. We will appreciate the on-board technologies and the ultimately comfortable way of piloting (however with some adaptation).

We are still looking forward to the arrival of new AR applications. Drone (Parrot put its development kit of applications for this effect to developers). Users will therefore soon be able to fight real virtual battles between several drones (in the form of increasing reality).

Note that Parrot has also made available its online store of spare parts if your drone experiences some irreversible accidents: all the parts are replaceable and has a great advantage! As well as explanatory videos have been published on the manufacturer's site to best help users repair their drone.

are you convinced of your side if you have tested it or if you plan to get it?

We discuss it on the forum.

The video test: