Drones have quickly captured a place in the public imagination when it comes to cool gadgets. Much of that work can be credited to Paris-based Parrot. Since 2010 Parrot has been selling drones, focusing on a camera feature that gave people the opportunity to do some aerial photography.
Last year it introduced MiniDrones, a set of toys that roll and fly, all controlled from a smartphone or tablet. Now it’s coming out with a new set of minidrones for 2015, including a new Hydrofoil model for water.
“It’s connected to a nautical structure. So what it does, the way it works is very simple… Freeflight 3 to pilot it,” says Christian Coly, director of sales at Parrot. “What makes it amazing is that it has great stability and agility. It’s very stable.”
There’s also new Jumping drones. These roll around on the ground and can launch themselves into the air with a spring. They perform all sorts of acrobatics and there’s an embedded microphone and speaker so the controller can communicate through the drone.
The Jumping Race drones are equipped with bigger wheels and have a high-speed boost mode that takes them up to 8 miles per hour. and of course there the Airborne drone that flies through the air. A new feature for this year: connect a lego figure to the top of the device.
If you’ve never had a chance to play with these drones before, let me tell you, they’re a lot of fun. They all have cameras that can take pictures from a unique perspective – even if the resolution is low. You’re bound to crash them, but the good news is they are pretty sturdy and it’s easy to put the propellers back on and launch them again.
Now on its second generation, Parrot faces the challenge of improving the technology as well as marketing the products in a way that people don’t get bored with the concept.
One issue is the battery life. It’s improved this year, but only up to a maximum of 20 minutes of playtime on a full charge. Parrot has made it faster to recharge a battery – 25 minutes.
“With the MiniDrones it’s all about fun and excitement. When we launched it about a year ago, we wanted it to be successful, but it really went about our expectations,” Coly says. ”For us the way to capture the imagination and the excitement… …all about fun actually.“
Fun is right. High-flying fun, that comes in short bursts.
Watch out for the Hyrdofoil and the other new drones sometime later this year. Prices range from $99 to $189 US, depending on the model.