Gadget Of The Week: The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

There are plenty of ways to get your flight school kicks with your smartphone or tablet — this missile shooting Griffin chopper comes to mind — but few manage to ooze as much style (or cost as much money) as Parrot’s AR.Drone 2.0.

Getting the thing ready to fly is surprisingly simple. Once you’ve popped the battery into place, and turned the thing on, the Drone creates its own Wi-Fi network that the control device connects to. From there, just fire up the FreeFlight app on your iOS or Android device and you’re off to the races.

The big draw for some will be the ability to record the Drone’s aerial journeys. In addition to providing the pilot with an idea of where the drone is going, the small camera pod mounted on the drone’s nose is capable of capturing photos as well as 720p video. The camera’s small sensor means that quality tends to take a hit in low light, but the bigger issue for some is the tendency to see a wiggling effect in recorded video because of the four rotors whirring away.

Let’s be honest here — it’s not the most useful thing to have in your gadget closet (doesn’t everyone have one of those?) unless you’ve got a thing for aerial photography or not-so-covertly spying on people. What it lacks in pure utilitarian functionality it makes up for in sheer fun. There’s something terribly fun about tilting your smartphone around and watching this little quad-rotor aircraft dart around in response to it.

It’s even surprisingly easy to fly, provided you start out slow and put in a few minutes of fiddling first. Sadly, our Mobile Editor Matt Burns didn’t take that rule to heart, as he quickly crashed our own Drone at Disrupt. C’est la vie, but be prepared to do your due diligence if you don’t want to screw up a pricy piece of machinery. That said, Parrot has made it terribly easy to wow your friends with some neat aerial tricks — just double tap a button from within the app to make the Drone flip, and take in the applause.

The Drone is a hell of a lot of fun to play with, but there’s always that price tag to consider — it’ll run you a considerable $299. The responsible thing may be to take that money and use it to buy a rock-solid juicer instead, but I think your mental well-being is better served by the ability to explore the skies (or annoy your neighbors).