The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 occupies a strange niche in the world of drones. It is far superior to any of the toy drones available, but on the flip side, it doesn’t quite meet the quality of professional drones like the DJI Phantom II Vision Quadcopter.
So where does it fall then? It falls somewhere in the mushy middle between toy and professional drone. Though it should be said, that unless you are looking for a drone for professional reasons, like commercial photography or security purposes, then the Parrot AR.Drone will give you everything you could want in a drone.
Upon receiving the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 from amazon, the first thing that I did was unpack it and take stock of what I had received. What was unexpected with this drone, was that it doesn’t come with a dedicated controller. So a word of warning, you will need a smartphone to control this drone. It also comes with two Styrofoam bodies – one of which can be used indoors and one outdoors.
After a bit of playing around with the drone inside, and inadvertently testing the strength of the Styrofoam body, it was time to test the drone outside (I later found out that replacement Styrofoam bodies are 45 dollars apiece, so be more carefully than I was.)
Once outside, I let the drone hover in place for a minute, just to test out its hovering capabilities. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it hovered, and it was comparable to the higher end drones that I had piloted. After I had let it hover for a moment, it was time to really put it through a work out.
The drone is piloted by android tablet or smartphone, and it takes a few minutes to really get the hang of the controls. I was originally conflicted about whether control from a smartphone is enough for a complex drone like this, but it does do the job when you get used to it. As a comparison, controlling the DJI Phantom Vision sometimes felt like I needed a third hand to control both the smartphone and the controller. So depending on your flight style, you may actually prefer controlling it from just a smartphone.
The app for the Parrot AR.Drone uses a “two-stick” control system, with the left stick controlling the drone’s elevation, and the right stick controlling the drone’s direction. It does handle some of the flight duties on its own, and with autopilot activated, will take-off and land on its own.
Overall, it was a good flight experience. Like most of the other drones that I have tested over the last few months, there was some trial and error. But I can report that there was no major damage done at any point, though I would recommend flying it in a soft, open field until you get some experience under your belt. And thankfully if you do damage it, numerous pieces are available to allow you to repair the drone easily.
While controlling the drone, you also get a real time video streaming to your smartphone, which makes it possible to control the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 through the camera alone. The Parrot AR.Drone comes with two cameras, one forward facing and one facing down.
The camera itself offered surprising decent quality for the price point, and shoots 720p video, but with no sound. With that being said, if you want the camera for professional purposes, the photos and video do look somewhat dated, and there is no built in onboard storage. So it will all be streamed to your smartphone device and stored there.
While the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is a great flying machine, it does come with a few downsides. One that really bothered me is that it doesn’t come with an on/off switch. While this is really a minor problem, I don’t like the fact that to activate the drone, I have to plug in the battery pack and close the body over it. And then to turn it off, the battery has to be removed. Of course this may be me nitpicking, but I think that something with this price tag should at least come with an on/off switch.
Another issue that is common to nearly all the drones on the market, is that the battery has a very short life. In perfect flight conditions, you may get 12 minutes of flight out of the drone, but 8-10 minutes is more common. And you should half that time if you are doing any tricks of flying in even moderate winds.
Also, the batteries take about 1-2 hours to fully charge, so the two batteries that it comes with will be quickly used up in any sustained flying. You may want to consider investing in additional batteries if you want to have any sort of sustained flight time for the drones.
If you’re looking for an excellent mid-priced drone, then the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is the best choice you can make. It is far easier to fly than nearly any of the available budget models, and makes a good entry point for someone just looking to have fun with a drone – or use it for simple videos or photos.