Parrot has just unveiled the world’s first consumer-grade fixed-wing drone, and I’m completely smitten. It’s called the Parrot Disco, and it might just be the coolest-looking drone I’ve ever seen – shame about the name, though. I got a look at this beauty out in Las Vegas at CES 2016, and it was a tough ask to not run away with it.
The Parrot Disco is a break away from Parrot’s usual quadcopter fare.
The French firm is widely known in drone circles for its Bebop series, which uses four fans to elevate the flier. This new drone, however, looks more like the kit used by the US military, albeit on a smaller, less lethal scale. In lieu of weapon systems, the Disco comes equipped with a camera that’s good for shooting Full HD 1080p footage.
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I was supplied with a video of some sample shots taken with the drone. The footage was nowhere near the professional grade you’d get from a high-end DJI drone, but it’ll suit consumers on a budget.
The main advantage of the front-facing camera is that you can sync up the video with a VR headset for a seriously immersive experience. The Parrot Disco weighs just 700g; it definitely felt light in the hand, but without seeming flimsy and weak.
Since it's a fixed-wing drone, not only does it look awesome, but it can fly pretty fast too. Parrot says the Disco can reach speeds of up to 80km/h, which is about 50mph, without losing its stability.
In addition, the Parrot Disco benefits from an impressive flight time of nearly 45 minutes, which puts most consumer drones to shame. To pilot the drone, you use Parrot’s Wi-Fi Skycontroller, which is the same kit used to fly the Bebop series.
So if you already own a Bebop-friendly Skycontroller, you won’t need to pick up another one. Parrot adds that the Disco works with a standard RC remote control, too, which will suit those on a budget.
The main difference between Disco and Bebop flight is that the former runs using semi-autopilot. To take-off, you just throw the flying wing and it gains altitude autonomously, turning in the sky until you take control.
Then, once you’re in flight, the autopilot will prevent what Parrot describes as a “false manoeuvre, which could bring the flying wing down”.
The company says the Parrot Disco is “as easy to pilot as playing a video game”.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to actually test out the drone in flight; I’ll have to wait for a review model to give the kit a full test. That said, it’s refreshing to see a fun alternative to the growing roster of prosaic quadcopters.
If Parrot can rein in the price to a competitive level, there’s a good chance the firm will see great success with the Disco.
The announcement seems a little strangely timed; Christmas 2015 was a drone-buying bonanza.
However, Parrot is being cagey about the Disco release date, only citing 2016. As such, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Disco fall a little way ahead of the 2016 holiday season.
Whatever the case, I’m excited to see how the Parrot Disco performs in the skies. Here’s hoping its aerial capabilities are as slick as its design.