As we noted in our Parrot BeBop Quadcopter Drone Pre-Review Rundown, the BeBop is now available to be purchased and flown. We will be writing many articles on the BeBop but felt it was important to note some early impressions and experiences we are having with our review model.
If Nothing else, Read this!
Sadly, a number of technology publications are not truly testing the Bebop – instead choosing just to print marketing claims, press releases and their 5 minute experience flying the Parrot BeBop at Parrot hosted (and paid-for) PR events. In addition, Parrot has offered incentives to early customers (contests, giveaways) if they post reviews online (at bestbuy, apple store, etc.) and share those reviews with the manufacturer. In our opinion, this is not the proper way to get unbiased opinions and experiences. You might want to read our article about why you see so few negative reviews on quadcopters and drones.
The question is not whether the Bebop is an advanced piece of technology – that it surely is! The question is more of whether it suits your needs and expectations…is it the right machine for your intended purpose?
It takes many weeks – or even months – to properly test a complicated piece of technology like the Parrot BeBop. However, we thought it important to post some of our initial findings and advice so that those looking to buy and fly this quadcopter have some understanding of it.
Not for non-techie Beginners
At first glance, the Bebop – it’s price, packaging, marketing and capabilities – seems like the “drone for the rest of us”. Our initial findings, however, suggest that those without some flying and technical experience could end up with problems if they don’t take some time to read, watch and understand the tech within. Since some of the early reviews mention “flyaways”, we did some quick checks to see if the Bebop would – in fact – fly away if set up incorrectly or not all all. We did this by simulating what many users are likely to do – that is, remove it from the box, charge the battery, download the app and start flying. Unlike most newbies, we tethered the BeBop to the ground with fishing line…just in case! Sure enough, lack of proper setup caused the BeBop to “flyaway” in random directions and shoot straight up. We suspect that improper setup and calibration is the cause of some of the problems new users are having. We urge new buyers and owners to download, read and understand the user guides from the Parrot site – and to watch ALL of the videos on setup which Parrot has produced – this is part 1 and the other parts are linked from here:
Calibrate your Bebop! That’s how it knows which direction is which. Also make sure you set the flat trim before takeoff and confirm any other settings such as country, indoor/outdoor, max. altitude, etc.
A certain understanding of how a GPS enabled drone works – along with a “aircraft awareness” which ensures the pilot checks everything before taking to the skies, is the key to getting the Bebop safely and properly aloft.
Range – You can’t always get what you want (or what they claim).
Parrot has published their range tests suggesting that the Bebop can easily fly several hundred meters (600-1000+ feet) – the exact range depending on the device used to control it. Here is their table for the USA:
So far, most reports don’t seem to live up to these claims. Numerous reports (various devices) have experienced 50-150 meters (160-500 feet) before connection or control is lost. Here is a video of a fairly accurate range test or two:
The Bebop is quite small – so even at 200 feet it is just a small dot in the sky. Those who want to fly around a beach or a small park will find this range to be adequate. However, many hobbyists like to push the limits and see how far they can go – it wouldn’t surprise us if many of these budding astronauts ended up losing their valuable drones.
The Skycontroller – Wifi Amplifier and stick control
Parrot is soon releasing a bundle ($899 US) which includes both the Bebop drone and an additional controller which could fix many of the shortcomings (range, precision, etc.) of the tablet or phone driven base model. According to current information, this will be sold ONLY as a bundle for a few months, after which you may be able to buy just the Skycontroller ($399) to upgrade your existing Bebop.
Although the added features seem to be of benefit, it does bring the price up closer to some of the other well known camera equipped quadcopters – especially the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ and the newer model of the Blade 350QX3 (w/gimbal and camera). The prospective buyer should weigh their needs and desires to determine what type of equipment will best suit them.
More coming soon!
We’re working hard on more testing and will publish a more extensive review in the future. Hopefully these initial findings and impressions will help consumer decide if this is the quadcopter for them – and, if so, how to property set it up and use it so as to not exceed it’s limits.