Earlier this week, Parrot unveiled a new fleet of drones that can fly, race, jump and even swim. On Tuesday, we got a chance to test drive a few of the latest MiniDrone models. The short story is that they’re all pretty awesome, but read on for some first impressions.
First up was the Airborne, Parrot’s new flyer that can hit speeds of up to 11 mph and pull off some pretty sweet mid-air acrobatics. We got a chance to try out the Cargo model, which features a Lego-style mount so you can stick a little figure on top of your drone.
The Airborne is probably the easiest to control of Parrot’s three new models. Taking off is as simple as hitting a small green button on the mobile app, and you can tap it again to land when you’re done. One virtual joystick on the left lets you go up and down or turn left and right by swiping at the screen. The second joystick moves the drone left and right or backwards and forward. You can also tap it quickly twice to do a flip.
The controls are extremely simply to use with virtually no learning curve. A useful icon also makes it easy to tell which direction Airborne is facing. The one drawback is that Parrot doesn’t seem to have any protective auto-detection, meaning it’s possible to fly straight into another person’s face if you’re not careful. Considering its small size and the protective plastic ring that runs around the body, you probably can’t actually do that much damage.
Next we got a chance to play with Jumping, a speedy ground-based drone with a big bag of tricks. Beyond racing at up to 8 miles per hour, it can jump up to 2.5 feet, either at a 45 degree angle or straight forward. It also features a built-in camera that saves footage to the drone and a speaker that can relay your voice.
The Jumping drone is a lot of fun, though it took a few moments before I felt comfortable driving it. It’s tough to figure out exactly how far it can jump and how to pull off a quick turn. Once you get comfortable, though, you can zip around pretty quickly.
Parrot also included a list of easy one-touch commands in its app for this model. You can make the drone spin around quickly, do a quick flip, slalom or just wiggle a bit. The design, which features big wheels and a compact body, also means it can flip over and keep going without any issue.
Parrot’s third and last model of the day was the Hydrofoil, basically a small remote controlled boat with a drone propeller attached to the back. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this one for myself. Instead, we got a quick demo before the weather picked up and we had to head back inside.
Based on a what I saw, though, the Hydrofoil looks pretty straightforward. You can steer through the water without much effort. Turning around is a bit more complicated. You have to lower the propeller and use it to rotate the drone, but in most situations that probably won’t be an issue.
Finally, we got a quick look at Night versions of the Jumping and Airborne Minidrones. Both models features adjustable LED lights that are perfect for flying at night, though they weren’t much use on a hot summer day.
All three models, which come in a total of 13 different characters, are set to launch sometime this fall, and range in price from $99 to $189. We’ll let you know as the soon as Parrot announces an official release date.