The Parrot AR Drone is an amazing device. It contains a whole bunch of digital technology, including a WIFI access point, two cameras, an ultrasonic rangefinder and four computer controlled rotors. You can fly it from your iPhone and you see a view from the camera in the front of the device as you remotely pilot it around. Today we had a go at flying it, and it works really well, once you have told it that it is flying outdoors. This takes some limits off the behaviours, making it more able to cope with the small headwind.
It really is impressive to watch. It just hangs in the air waiting for commands, and it is very easy to control. In fact, in some ways it is too easy. If you leave it along it just flies, if you give it directions it just follows them, and then waits for some more. Even landing is mostly boring, except for once or twice when it flipped upside down for no reason. There are some augmented reality games you can get, and of course it gets really fun if you have someone else with a drone to fight against.
They are a bit pricey (fortunately I didn’t pay for this one, we use it in the department) but the biggest problem is the battery life. You can get around 10-12 minutes of flying time before the lithium ion battery needs a top up. I’d definitely get a couple of spares if I was going to get serious about flying a drone.