App review: AR.Drone controller

We went hands on with the new AR.Drone 2.0 from Parrot. We'll have our full review later, but here are our thoughts on the controller app.
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App review: AR.Drone controller

If you’re in the market for a drone, but don’t want to splash out thousands of pounds on something that might end up collecting dust under the stairs, we’d recommend the AR.Drone 2.0 by Parrot.

But, the drone would be nothing without its accompanying app, AR.FreeFlight, which acts as the controller. This is what you can expect from the pilot’s seat.

AVAILABILITY

iOS, Android, Windows

WHAT DOES IT DO?

The app has everything you’ll need to get the thing off the ground, and thankfully it’s not like staring into the cockpit of a Boeing 747. Layman’s terminology is present throughout, with plenty of options to alter how much or little you plan on letting your drone do.

You also get a live video stream from the drone’s on board cameras, which can record in either 420p standard definition of 720p high definition. We should note that if you want to record in the higher video quality, it’s going to have an impact on the already limited battery life, which only lasts about 20 – 25 minutes.

The green ‘TAKE OFF’ button at the bottom of the screen will only do so much for you, launching the drone to about one metre where it will then hover and await further instruction.

After take off you’ll have two control pads, which you have to operate with your thumbs (kind of like a video game) – these allow you to change the height, direction and speed of the drone.

When you need to bring the drone back to Earth, you’ll notice that the ‘TAKE OFF’ button has been replaced with a ‘LANDING’ button. Tap this when you’re near-ish flat ground, and you should be sorted.

WHAT DID WE LIKE?

Following a couple of wobbly initial flights, we found the drone wasn’t all that difficult to control. The biggest problem we came across was making it fly in the right direction – which wasn’t helped by the wind.

To control, you can either tilt the phone in the direction you want, or use the joy pads, which is fine if you’re looking at the drone from the ground. Of course, you can also fly it by looking at your smartphone’s screen for a first person view from the drone’s camera. This is a bit trickier because you have a very limited line of sight and if it’s windy, the feed will be quite shaky.

As a party piece you can double tap the screen to make the drone do a flip. It doesn’t make for very good video footage, but it looks cool from the ground.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER?

Before take off we were concerned about what would happen if the drone went out of range – would it just drop out the sky? Thankfully it lands itself in this instance, but it would be good if it would make its own way back. This functionality is available in other drones, but maybe that’s why they’re a bit more expensive.

We would also have liked it if it came with a Full HD camera, and a battery that didn’t drain so quickly. Again, this is probably something to do with the fact it costs about £300, and not thousands.

OUR VERDICT

The AR.FreeFlight app is comprehensive and allows users to alter a great deal of controls to make flying the AR.Drone as straightforward as possible. However, it would’ve been good to see a bit more of the instruction manual that comes boxed with the drone, on the app. Why include a paper version of something when you’ve got the option to condense it onto an app?

None the less, good fun – we’ll be posting our review of the drone with a video tomorrow.

0 Stars

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