Par­rot Be­bop Drone

Four ro­tors for the price of a drone

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£780 Man­u­fac­turer Par­rot, par­ Con­nec­tiv­ity 802.11ac, MIMO dual-band (2.4 and 5GHz) Cam­era 1920x1080 at 30fps (video), 4096x3072 Mem­ory 8GB Di­men­sions 80x320x36mm Weight 400g

Par­rot drones have fi­nally grown up. We’re used to slightly child­like toys such as the Rolling Spi­der top­ping Christ­mas lists, but the Be­bop drone is about to claim that spot. It’s a diminu­tive drone, but it’s got some se­ri­ous kit on board.

In a body sec­tion that’s just a few inches long you get a sub­stan­tial bat­tery and an HD (1080p) video cam­era that shoots 14 megapixel stills. It can be bought just as a drone (£430), but the Sky­con­troller bun­dle gives you a tra­di­tional twin-stick re­mote con­trol unit ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing its own Wi-Fi hotspot, en­abling you to fly up to a claimed 2km (it went well be­yond our sight!)

The Sky­con­troller is a big unit and you’ll need the shoul­der strap as it’s heavy too. You can se­cure an iPad or iPhone into the mid­dle, giv­ing you a live view from the Be­bop’s cam­era. If Par­rot’s FreeFlight soft­ware wasn’t so good, this could seem gim­micky, but it’s de­liv­ered with aplomb. Free­ing your­self from the con­straints of touch con­trol (the only op­tion if you haven’t got a Sky­con­troller) makes del­i­cate ad­just­ments a cinch.

There can be a slight de­lay in hor­i­zon­tal con­trol when start­ing from a land­ing po­si­tion, but once in flight the Sky­con­troller’s twin sticks make drone con­trol far eas­ier than touch. It’s quite a thrill too when you get the drone out of sight and you’re fly­ing like a real drone pi­lot, by just look­ing at a screen. Thank­fully, there’s a but­ton on the Sky­con­troller that re­turns the Be­bop to its start­ing po­si­tion if you ever feel like it’s lost.

Nat­u­rally, the view from the cam­era has a slight frame rate is­sue so you still need to be pretty con­fi­dent of the kind of area you’re fly­ing into. The drone should only be used in the light­est of winds too.

The Be­bop it­self is light but can with­stand some pretty se­ri­ous knocks. The only weighty com­po­nent is the bat­tery (last­ing about 12 min­utes), but its clip mech­a­nism is flimsy. It doesn’t ex­actly click into place; it comes out too eas­ily and looks un­tidy.

Th­ese small crit­i­cisms didn’t dent our en­joy­ment, how­ever. If you can af­ford it, you’re in for some bril­liant aerial an­tics. Chris­tian Hall

Who’s a pretty boy then? Those who can af­ford this pre­mium play­thing are in for high jinks.

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