PerformanceThe Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is based around the critically acclaimed original AR.Drone design. It is designed to provide easy access to a relatively high performance yet easily controllable flying RC-vehicle. Maintained from the original is the pulltruded carbon fiber cross along with an update middle section. The propellers and engine configuration is the same as on the original, the real updates are under the hood of the machine. The AR.Drone 2.0 has a faster on-board CPU with more memory and a brand new ultra-sound and camera setup. These updates allow for relative control which can be used while learning to control the craft.
Our tests were a little hampered by the bad Danish summer weather. The drone does not fly well in high winds and rain.
Parrot has gone for a 720 HD front facing camera which is a remarkable upgrade over the old one both in terms of resolution and color accuracy which is nice considering that you can record your flying endeavors with the new AR.Drone app for smartphones and tablets.
Due to the new revision's more capable on-board hardware Parrot has opened up even more settings and the new AR.Drone is also easier to control and allows for faster turning speeds. Despite the upgrade of the on-board hardware neither the range nor the video feed lag has been improved by much. The range with line-of-sight is probably around 50 meters, and it rapidly drops in areas with lots of wireless networks and of course when line-of-sight is lost.
Connecting the AR.Drone 2.0 to our iPhone 4 and HTC Sensation was a breeze just like with the original. We did find some minor issues in areas with many wireless routers. This causes additional delays in the feed and control. When using the drone on a field the control was much more consistent. Both the iPhone app and the Android version work really well and we only encountered one failure to connect, which might be due to the Ice Cream Sandwich installation on our HTC Sensation test phone.
We did not have the most ideal test weather here in Denmark, but we did what we could to race the AR.Drone 2 to its limits. All test days had over 3 m/s average wind and it was somewhat gusty, which proved to be quite challenging. In order to find some shelter from the gust we moved the test into the backyard of my apartment complex which is a very interesting environment to fly in.
A real backyard beater session was underway. The tricky wind conditions meant that flying whilst taking pictures proved a tricky task. Like with the original the version 2 is easy to launch and land because of its auto-launch and land feature. While in flight the drone is extremely susceptible to wind and especially wind changes. With the outdoor hull on it becomes more stable in windy conditions, but due to lack of totally free space for our tests we decided to keep the protective indoor hull on. One brief evening session with the outdoor hull was all we had time to carry out. It proved to yield similar performance improvements over the bulky aerodynamically challenged indoor hull, as on the original drone.
The new AR.Drone 2.0 can also do some tricks in the air, these are pre-programmed and allow the drone to do flips which look very funky. You can also use pre-programmed flights which we suspect will be a neat feature for people looking to use it as a flying camera for video production. With its front facing 720p HD camera the results could definitely get interesting with some trial-and-error.
The AR.Drone 2.0 is a tour de force in terms of versatility and ease of use. The amount of features added for the AR.Drone 2.0 is just amazing, and while it does have a lot of things in common with the original it is just so much better that it is worth the upgrade if you are serious about piloting drones. And the 2.0 version makes it a perfect excuse to get another drone so that you can play games that require two or more drones.