The Parrot MiniDrone is a smartphone-controlled quadrocopter that’s significantly smaller than the AR Drone and packs a set of wheels so it can travel on the ground as well as in the air.
Parrot says its pint-sized Drone has been in several years in development and while it has yet to talk UK pricing, it can confirm that the more toy-like flying machine will be launching into the skies in 2014 and will be much cheaper.
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Essentially a scaled down version of the AR Drone 2.0, the MiniDrone has four sets of blades with a compact and lightweight body that is small enough to fit inside the palm of your hand. Weighing just 50g (70g with wheels), the tinier body comes at an expense, with the HD camera and video recording capabilities no longer on board replaced with a downwards-facing ‘high speed camera’ to help keep control in the air. You do get a set of large detachable wheels that clip onto the sides of the MiniDrone letting you drive it around on the floor and even climb walls.
While the bigger Drone worked over Wi-Fi, navigating the MiniDrone is done via smartphone or tablet app connecting via Bluetooth 4.0 LE with iOS, Android and Windows Phone mobile OS platforms set to be supported. Once you are up and running, the MiniDrone hovers up and flies around the room thanks to a built-in 3-axis accelerometer accompanied by pressure, ultrasonic and gyro sensors. Underneath the lightweight exterior is a 500MHZ processor and 1GB RAM to power the performance when airborne and on the ground.
Flight range is up to 160 feet which is not far off what the bigger drone is capable of. What’s not so impressive is the 7-8 minutes of battery life provided by a removable rechargeable battery that is powered back up via the micro USB charger.
Despite the lack of a 720p HD video camera to stream the action and the shorter flying time, the MiniDrone is still a lot of fun and is surprisingly easy to control. Bouncing it off walls doesn’t have the same impact on keeping the quadrocopter steady as it does with the larger Drone and with key components more enclosed is less susceptible to damage. The additional set of wheels means you can make the most of the short play time that suggests this is one for the kids. If you missed out on playing with the bigger, more expensive AR Drone, the MiniDrone is going to be a more affordable way to cause havoc down the park or in the living room.