Last Wednesday in San Fancisco, Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux showed us several demos of the company’s brand new Bebop Drone, which is basically a 180 degree view 14 MP camera equipped with four three-blade propellers. After the success of the A.R. Drone, which sold over 700,000 units worldwide, Parrot is eager to innovate in the civilian drone arena.
Despite its 12 minutes battery life, the Bebop Drone is quite fun to operate and it can be useful for real estate agents or architects who need to shoot compelling movies of large properties at low cost. In fact, the Bebop Drone is very simple to operate, using your iOS or Android Smartphone or tablet as a remote control, and it is quite safe since it weighs less than 400g (380g without its hull, 400g with its hull). The battery is easily removable, so you can carry a stack of them if you want to have fun for one hour piloting multiple 12 minutes flights.
"I SAW THROUGH THE DRONE'S CAMERA VIA THE OCULUS HEADSET AND LOVED IT" In addition to the regular flight demos, I was able to try the Bebop Drone indoor with the Oculus Rift, and the experience was quite impressive. To operate the Bebop Drone while wearing the Oculus Rift VR headset you need to use the Parrot Skycontroller that will be sold as an option.
During the flight, I could see the room from the Bebop Dronepoint of view, basically, I saw through the drone’s camera via the Oculus headset and loved it.
The Occulus Rift demo used a proprietary application that was developed by with the Oculus SDK by Parrot’s engineers and it may not be released to the public as a commercial app.
The main features include the Parrot 7 dual core CPU and quad core GPU, four three-blade propellers, 8 GB of flash memory, a 14 Megapixels camera equipped with a 6 optical elements fisheye lens, 1080p wide-angle video capture, a glass fiber (15%) reinforced ABS structure, a removable battery, Wi-Fi 802.11 n/Ac MIMO dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) antennas, indoor flight, and various sensors to ensure the localization and the 3-axis real time stabilization. The optional Parrot Skycontroller equipped with four 36dBM Wi-Fi MIMO antennas extend the flight range from 300 meters to 2 kilometers.
To remote control the Bebop, you need to use the Freeflight 3.0 application for iOS and for Android. The app is quite easy to use and pretty intuitive. Cehck out the user nterface in the photo gallery below.
When asked, Parrot CEO did not disclose exact pricing or availability, he just told us that the Bebop Drone will be available later this year for a price between $300 and $1000, which will be more expensive than the AR Drone but cheaper than the Dji Phantom 2 Drone.
Camera with fisheye lens for 180 degree view
The Parrot Bebop main function is to shoot Full HD 1080p movies while flying. The 14 megapixels fisheye lens front facing camera capture and streams 180 degree video on the tablet or Smartphone display used as the remote control. The camera angle is directly controlled with the user’s thumb from the Freeflight 3.0 application. The image stabilization is quite good, thanks to a 3-axis stabilization system that leverages a secondary camera, multiple position sensors and rubber shock absorbers mounted on the structure.
According to Parrot, unlike the Go-Pro which features a similar fisheye lens, the image distortion is corrected with the GPU and a proprietary image processor, so you can enjoy a great wide angle image quality. Videos are stored locally in the internal 8GB flash memory and can be transferred after the landing via the microUSB connector.
Parrot was considering adding a MicroSD slot (you can see the attempt in the image gallery, in the image that shows the microUSB connector), however the engineering team decided to remove it, probably because the 8GB flash is sufficient to hold about 2 hours video with its best compression (please note this is a rough estimate it depends on the video codec).
Stability, autonomous flight and connectivity
The Parrot bebop is piloted via Wi-Fi using the free Freeflight 3.0 application for iOS or Android Smartphones and tablets.
During all the flight demos, I was impressed by the extreme stability the drone was able to deliver, which is one of the key features promoted by Parrot. According to the company, the extreme stability is achieved by leveraging data coming numerous sensors: a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, a 3-axis magnetometer, an ultrasound with a reach up to 8 meters a pressure sensor and a vertical camera. "I WAS IMPRESSED BY THE EXTREME STABILITY"
The Wi-Fi reliability is enhanced by four WI-Fi antennas that can manage the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies in MIMO (Multiple Inputs Multiple Outputs) method, so depending on the interferences, the user can select the best available frequency. The Bebop Drone used with a smartphone or a tablets can be controlled from up to 300 meters.
Thanks to its GNSS chipset that integrates GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO data, the Bebop is able to fly autonomously and it automatically returns to its take-off location. The flight is programmed via the mobile app and is automatically recorded on the Parrot Cloud, “Pilot Academy” (see image below). Parrot did not demonstrate this feature during the briefing.
Freeflight 3.0 – remote control application for iOS and Android
You start the Bebop Drone by pressing the Take off button, then the drone, starts its engines, takes off and stabilizes to wait for the pilot’s next instruction. With the left thumb, you control the altitude, the rotation and movements. The right, left, forward and backward directions are controlled by tilting the Smartphone or tablet accordingly. The right thumb enables control of the tilt angle of the front camera.
The Landing button activates a smooth landing and the return Home button makes the Bebop Drone automatically come back its take-off spot.
The flight plan feature allows the user to program an autonomous flight.
It is interesting to mention that over 50 engineers specializing in digital signal processing, aeronautics, Wi-Fi radio and industrial design worked together to develop a performance-packed tiny consumer drone at a quite reasonable price point (below $1000). See below an image describing the full specifications of the Parrot Bebop Drone.