Say hello to Bebop, aka the AR Drone 3.0. This is the latest drone from Parrot and it’s a big upgrade from the much-loved AR Drone. It’s essentially a flying camera that can even pipe imagery directly into an Oculus Rift headset, taking flying in the clouds to a whole new level.
Sticking out of the center of the small drone is a 14 MP camera with a fisheye lens. This setup, along with some nifty software tricks, allows the drone to capture silky-smooth video — the video can even pan and tilt while the drone hovers.
Essentially, thanks to the 180-degree field of vision allowed by the fisheye lens, the software captures more video than it needs. It then uses home-brew software to cut out the desired bits and discard the rest. This allows the angle of view to remain fixed even if the drone is swaying in the wind.
This setup gives the Bebop a unique selling point over competitors, including models from Phantom that rely on more traditional camera and gimbal rigs.
Like previous AR Drones, connectivity is achieved through Wi-Fi and the Bebop has four antennas and can ride on 2.4GHz and 5Ghz frequencies. Still, range through Wi-Fi is limited to, well, the range of Wi-Fi. The Bebop can do much more.
Along with the Bebop, Parrot is introducing the Skycontroller that extends the Bebop’s range to 2 kilometers. The tablet or smartphone used to control the drone just mounts in the middle of the controller. Using an assortment of antennas and boosters, the controller boosts the controlling tablet’s signal by 36dBm.
If that’s not enough, the Skycontoller can also output the field of view streamed from the drone to an Oculus Rift. You become the Bebop. Early reports state there is a bit of lag.
The drone also packs a GNSS chipset that uses GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO data for autonomous flight and return to take-off position.
Sadly, like the AR Drones before it, flight time is limited to a paltry 12 minutes.
Parrot has yet to release pricing for the Bebop, instead stating it will cost a bit more than the $300 Parrot AR Drone 2.0 and the $1,000 models from Phantom. It’s expected to be released in the fourth quarter of the year.
The Bebop will likely be a hit. This marks Parrot’s third-generation drone. Thanks to the AR Drones before it, the company figured out the way to market and sell drones to the general public. The Bebop builds upon the fun consumers had with the novel AR Drones and adds practicality with a high-def camera and extended range.