This might just be one of the coolest toys I have ever played with, the Parrot AR.Drone. Today the b2cloud team endeavored to find a couple of these cool toys, and managed to get our hands on two of them.
Picture this, a helicopter with four high powered rotors, that self level the craft using a high frame-rate, downward facing camera set beside two sonar transmitters. Add an accelerometer and a smart CPU to determine the exact pitch/roll of the aircraft at all times, so when a gust of wind hits, it stays perfectly level. Stick on a forward facing 640×480 wide angle camera, wifi hotspot, high capacity battery, linux OS and some other tricks and you have the foundation for an amazingly high tech craft.
So what would one do with multiple cameras and a wifi hotspot…Interface the craft with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch as a remote control and a screen on which to stream the video footage captured.
The team at Parrot have not only developed an incredible machine, but backed it up with a complete development platform to interface Apple devices to it. This enables a myriad of ways to interact software with the real world.
Setting up the AR.Drone is simple, unpack the box and fit either the indoor or outdoor flying kit. The main difference is the indoor kit includes a foam mold that fits close to the rotors to protect them from bumps, like a dodgem car. The outdoor kit leaves the rotors exposed. Charge the battery for an hour and download the AR Free Flight app from iTunes for either the iPad or iPhone. Connect the battery to the craft, connect your iPhone/iPad to the Ad Hoc network transmitted from the Drone and load the app. Its time to fly!
The app is very simple to operate, once the Drone connects to the phone, the image is a live image streamed from the front of the craft, pressing the view icon splits the screen and loads the live stream from both the front and bottom camera’s simultaneously. At this point its a good idea to adjust the settings which include a range of sensitivities, height limiters and advanced customizations to the Drone’s operations.
To launch the Drone, simply press the launch icon on the main screen, the motors power up and within a couple of seconds it is hovering. There are 2 joystick controls on screen. The right stick controls the height and pitch of the Drone. Push the joystick up and the Drone lifts. The left joystick enables the iPhone/iPad’s gyro. The Drone is maneuvered by holding the joystick and angling the iPhone/iPad.
By opening up the platform to developers, there will be a flurry of games and utilities developed for this cool machine. A test game has been developed by the Parrot team, which enables two Drones to have a virtual dogfight, by overlaying missiles and power ups on screen (thats why b2cloud bought two). I will leave the review of the game for another post.
Having only played with it for a couple of hours, and having a quick peek into the office next door, this is by far the coolest toy I have played with. Its potential is limitless, what type of app would you like to see use this technology? Leave comment below.
The verdict…buy this, play with it, develop for it and use your imagination to do cool stuff with it. An unmanned drone with sensors, camera’s, open platform that interfaces to the iPhone. Extraordinary!