The AR Drone is a four-rotor aircraft which combines many of the new and advanced technologies in R/C Flight. Parrot, the company behind the AR Drone is marketing the AR Drone as a “flying video game” since it combines actual flying of the aircraft, real time video streaming to the controller, and the ability to add real-time gaming with hunter-seeker style gaming. The newest model, 2.0, is a vast improvement on the original and is a great learning platform for those seeking to find out about the new world of multirotor aircraft.
Unlike the current crop of low-budget helicopters, the AR Drone is controlled by your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch or Android device via the AR Drone’s built-in WiFi system. The plus side of this system is that the cost of including a radio transmitter is eliminated but the downside is you are limited to the range of 802.11G Wifi signal which is about 150 feet. The AR is a “smart” drone and will be relatively easy to fly for beginners as it has advanced controls and software which do not require as much dexterity and practice as with atypical 2.4 GHZ radio controlled aircraft.
The AR Drone ships with an indoor hull that provides foam padding to protect the rotor blades during the inevitable bumping into things when flying indoors. However, in reality, this machine is not designed for indoor flying except in very large rooms. Our suggestion at Droneflyers is to use the AR Drone as an outside quadcopter.
Also included is an outdoor hull which is lighter weight providing faster speeds and slightly longer run times.
The AR Drone features a 3-axis accelerometer as well as a 2-access gyroscope. The sonar provides altitude stabilization up to about 20 feet. Above the range of the ultrasonic sonar, the drone goes into a blind-flight mode that requires more control input to maintain height. Radio range is limited by WiFi communication distance to about 150 feet.
The AR Drone 2.0 is outfitted with two color cameras. The front camera is HD resolution (720P) at 13 frames per second. The downward looking camera is QCIF resolution (176 x 144 pixels) at 60 frames per second.
The AR Drone is available from Brookstone, Amazon and other sources for about $300. This site will continue to provide you with up-to-date information, news, modification, hacks, and more.
Note – if you want to get started in the world of Quadcopters and Multirotors at a much lower price point, consider a model like the Syma X1 or similar sub-$60 models. You certainly will not get the cameras and all the advanced features of the AR Drone, but at the same time you may not cry as loudly when you lose your first quad up in a tall tree!
Below are some links to AR Drone quadcopters and parts at Amazon: