Paris - Straddling the line between electronic toy and photographic accessory, Parrot is rolling out its next-generation AR.Drone 2.0 "quadricopter" with a host of new features including an HD video camera/recorder.
The aerial drone, which is controlled by Wi-Fi using a smartphone or tablet and Parrot's free AR.Freeflight 2.0 piloting app, features a forward-facing 1,280 by 720 camera that streams real-time video or still images to the control device's screen. It can record the content to the controller device, or to a USB drive (not included) under the hull of the drone.
The Freeflight app allows for one-touch sharing of the video or photos to the AR.Drone pilot community on Youtube and Picasa.
The app also includes a number of piloting games, and Parrot plans to launch the AR.Drone Academy, an online forum for sharing content with the AR.Drone community, including geo-location data of the best flight zones, other pilots' videos, and access to shared flight data such as altitude, speed, duration and geo-location, for example.
The new app adds a number of upgrades over the original AR.Drone, including Absolute Flight, a new ultra-intuitive flight mode driven by a 3D magnetometer which allows the pilot to control the AR.Drone's flight by the controller's motion and tilt.
Also new is the AR.Drone's micro electromechanical systems, which include a three-axis accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, the aforementioned three-axis magnetometer and a pressure sensor, which improves greatly the AR.Drone 2.0's stability during flight.
Two ultrasound sensors analyze flight altitude up to 20 feet and the pressure sensor adds stability and control above 20 feet, up to about 150 feet. A downward facing second camera on the belly of the quadricopter and connected to the central inertial unit, measures the craft's speed using an image comparison system.
Parrot has also added a stunt mode which allows the drone to complete 360-degree horizontal flips with a double tap of the controller screen.
The AR.Drone 2.0 includes two hull options. For outdoor flight, the contoured hull, available in three colors (orange/yellow, orange/green and orange/blue), reduces wind resistance and preserves the AR.Drone 2.0's handling and stability.
When indoor, a second hull, that fits around the contoured hull, protects the blades from any impact.
LEDs, green in front, red in rear, positioned on the landing gear, help the pilot track the orientation of the AR.Drone 2.0 for easier flying.
The app is available in Apple's App Store and an Android version will be available when the AR.Drone 2.0 begins shipping in May.
In order to expand the use of the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and its compatibility with other operating systems and to develop new flying games and applications, Parrot is providing developers and members of the Apple and Android communities with a software development kit.
The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 runs on an included rechargeable lithium-polymer battery and will be available at selected retailers in May in the United States for $299. Pre-orders can be placed online or in-store at Brookstone starting March 1.