February 12 2011
There are technology writers who would consign this amazing indoor and outdoor, iPhone-controlled four-rotor helicopter (“quadricopter”) to the joke-product pile. But I take seriously the job of entertaining colleagues. And in many years of looking for great novelties, I don’t think I’ve stumbled on anything as comprehensively diverting as this – which, bizarrely, comes from Parrot, a French audio company.
The Parrot AR Drone is exceptionally manoeuvrable using your iPhone or iPad as a control. The Drone kicks up its own Wi-Fi network rather than use a radio control. It also carries two video cameras, which send live footage back to your iWhichever while flying. Whereby lies a tale and a tip, which is: don’t fly it in its outdoor mode unless you have a very, very large flat field to fly in. I launched ours on Richmond Hill, overlooking the Thames, and it flew 20 minutes, obeying every command – until it didn’t. Having sent back some stunning sunset views, it picked up, I suspect, other Wi-Fi signals, and rose until it was a dot before becoming, in Monty Python terms, an ex-Parrot. In a bigger area we might have retrieved it once it ran out of power. Great fun, though.