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Parrot’s drones are more fun than function

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Consumer drones (the kind that shoots photos, not missiles) come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the more serious prosumer grade stuff like the DJI Inspire 1 or Phantom 4 all the way down to the much smaller and more portable travel drones like the GoPro Karma and DJI Mavic Pro.

Then, you’ve got the wild and wacky world that Parrot lives in. And it’s pretty exciting.

Parrot recently launched a multitude of drones that range from what can be considered as sophisticated toys — their Minidrones series — all the way to their more established prosumer line of drones.

While the company’s competitors at DJI and GoPro are obsessed with giving you the best aerial photography and videography tools ever, Parrot seems to take a more lighthearted approach to drone-ing (is that even a word?) and focuses on the social aspect of this activity.

Take a look at their roster of drones and you can really see this philosophy being applied. Just look at their flagship product — the fixed-wing Parrot Disco drone.

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I’ve raved about this product in the past because of how cool it looks and how awesome fixed-wing flying is. However, if you think about it, fixed-wing drones offer almost no advantages — in terms of videography and filmmaking — over a quadcopter. It can’t hover, can’t take off vertically, nor does it have a quadcopter’s maneuverability and control.

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But what it does do, according to Parrot, is give the user an immersive flying experience that is unlike anything else on the market right now. How? Well, in Malaysia, the Disco will be assigned an FPV suffix which stands for first-person-view.

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With the Disco, the user is encouraged to strap on a pair of first-person-view goggles (powered by your smartphone) and take to the sky with the drone itself through its 14-megapixel camera that records 1080p video into its 32GB of built-in memory. The Disco also boasts an incredible flight time of up to 45 minutes while being able to achieve speeds of up to 80km/h.

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It also has some autonomous features like automatic take off, where you just toss the drone in the air and it starts flying, and automatic landing, though, if we’re being completely honest it looks more like a controlled crash than a land.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience flying with the Disco because there wasn’t enough space to do so at the launch event. The good news is that we still got to try FPV flying with Parrot’s other drone — the Bebop 2 — which is also designed with similar intentions.

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Did it work? Am I enamoured with this social flying aspect of Parrot’s drones? Well, no, not really. Although the Bebop 2 sports the same camera as the Disco, the footage it streams is only up to 720p. So, when that gets turned into FPV, the resulting footage was rather blurry and pixelated. There were even instances where the stream would freeze up and cut out before reconnecting again. So, no, it doesn’t feel like flying.

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Still, the Bebop 2 is an older drone and it also doesn’t have the sheer speed, or flight time, of the Disco as it tops out at 60km/h and 25 minutes of flight time. Perhaps things will be better on the Disco. The Bebop 2 also doesn’t have any kind of the autonomous features, like collision avoidance, that you would find on DJI’s flagship drones.

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You should also keep in mind that both the Disco and Bebop 2 share Parrot’s Skycontroller 2 which can only give you a flying range of about 2.4km. That’s less than half of the Phantom 4’s 5km range and about a third of the Mavic Pro’s 7km range.

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To make matters worse, these drones from Parrot do not come with lighthearted price tags either as the Bebop 2 FPV pack will set you back RM4,199 (right now it’s available at an introductory price of RM3,699) while the Disco FPV costs RM6,999. The good news is that you will be getting the FPV goggles and the Skycontroller 2 bundled in.

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If that’s a little bit too pricey for you just to have some fun, you can also go for the two new Minidrones in Parrot’s lineup. The first is called the Mambo and it’s a tiny little drone that can be augmented with one of two accessories — a Grabber and a Cannon. The Cannon fires tiny little pellets at a range of 2m while the Grabber….grabs stuff and releases them.

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Then we’ve got the Swing which is a funky little drone that’s X-shaped and is supposedly designed to be like a plane and a quadcopter. As a result, it takes off and lands vertically (propellers towards the sky) like a quadcopter, but can fly around horizontally (propellers facing forward) like a plane.

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Although these two Minidrones are fairly interesting, they’re ultimately just really cool toys. Also on display was the Jumping Race (a land bot that jumps) as well as the Parrot Hydrofoil (a boat bot that sails across the water with the help of a set of propellers on its roof).

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The Parrot Swing bundle is priced at RM749 while the Parrot Mambo is priced at RM649. You can also opt for the optional Parrot Flypad controller that’s priced at RM249.

All these drones will be sold in Apple Premium Resellers — Machines, Switch, Mac Studio — and All IT Hypermart as well as in hobby shops — Hobbysportz Paradigm and Foto Flash KLCC.