Killer camera, prone to breakageOk, so it’s not exactly PC hardware, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out Parrot’s latest entry-level drone, the Bebop. Boasting massively improved specifications over its predecessor, it sounds like the perfect way to ease newcomers into the art of remote controlled flying. It’s now equipped with a stunning 1080p camera as well, making it one of the most affordable ways to capture epic sweeping shots for your home movies. Unfortunately some rather buggy software and poor battery life makes the high pricetag a rather risky investment.
As usual, Parrot has adopted a quadcopter design for maximum stability. Each propeller is designed to stop immediately if it makes contact with small trees, rocks, the ground or innocent bystanders. Parrot has also included four replacement propellers in the case that a blade gets snapped, and there’s a damn good chance that will happen. A foam hub can be connected to the drone to help protect it against collisions, but the added weight will soak up even more of the battery life.Speaking of which, those four propellers chew through the included battery in just over ten minutes. There’s a second one in the box, giving users 20 minutes of flight time unless they choose to buy additional battery packs, which go for around thirty bucks a piece.Included GPS sensors are meant to ensure the drone will return home if it loses signal, though we found our sample went a little haywire when just 15 metres from its take-off point; hitting the emergency button didn’t do anything, suggesting it had lost contact with our Samsung Galaxy S6 entirely. That was one of the biggest issues we encountered with the Bebop, with the FreeFlight 3 software rather buggy to say the least. Several times during our test flights the drone seemed to have a mind of its own, which could be a result of it using the rather crowded 802.11ac WiFi standard. It’s possible to choose the channel yourself, but our innercity test environment was obviously a bit too much for the drone to handle. Hopefully it’ll operate better in outdoor environments away from Wireless networks. It’s meant to have a range of up to 250 metres, but we had several issues when it was just 20 metres away, at one point almost flying itself out into the middle of a very busy road! We’re guessing it operates a heck of a lot better with the optional Skycontroller, which has an amplified Wi-Fi signal.The killer feature of the Bebop is its stunning 1080p camera, and the footage it captures is stunning. Amateur filmmakers will find it perfect for grabbing shots that used to require a helicopter. There’s one issue with it though; thanks to the fish-eye lens, there’s absolutely no protection if the drone flies headfirst into something. And once that lens is scratched or cracked, say goodbye to your crisp home movies. We also found the video feed to our phone exceptionally laggy, making flying this way impossible.While we had issues with our unit, we’re sure it’ll fly much better in country environs away from congested WiFi networks. However, the issue of its fragility is much harder to justify, so whether or not you’re willing to splash out on this toy probably depends on how handy you are with a soldering iron and super glue. BENNETT RINGFly it somewhere away from trees, powerlines and the ground, and you shouldn’t have too many issues with breaking your new baby.