Quadcopter cameras are awesome fun, don’t let anyone tell you differently. They’re fun to fly, great for exploring new spaces and it’s fun to edit the video when you get back home. But the big problem they’ve had up to now is the fact that they’re really quite difficult to fly properly.
Even the easiest, GPS controlled ones are tricky, which puts a lot of people off. But now a new generation of quadcopter cameras are coming on to the market which are perfect for beginners to use without fear of making themselves look stupid.
The new Parrot Bebop Drone Camera is a perfect example of a flying camera which offers not just great quality video footage, but also unparalleled ease of flying. It really is easy enough for just about anyone over the age of 8 to use.
The Bebop is impressively light out of the box, at just 390 grams in weight, which is even more impressive when you consider it’s carrying a 14 megapixel HD camera, with a 3 axis stabilization system built in. Along with 8 GB of on-board video storage. The quad (sorry drone, as the makers insist on calling it) comes with two 1200mAh batteries in the box, each capable of around 12 minutes flight time. Check our our video below to see how easy this quad is to fly, and what the video quality is like.
The batteries, which are the black blocky components on the top of the main camera fuselage, are easy to remove and replace, which means oodles of flight time with sequential charging. We also liked the fact that there are substantial plastic lightweight bumpers on the craft to protect the props and also protect anything you might hit with the quad. Nicely designed.
It’s the camera and the software behind it which is the standout feature on the product. No actually, that’s not exactly true. It’s the camera, the software and the mind-blowingly easy flying that really all work together to make this such a pleasure to use. You pilot the thing using a smartphone or tablet computer (using the free Flight 3.0 app on Android or iOS) and the software is so easy it’s amazing.
The app contains lots of really nice touches to make it fun and simple. There’s a one button take off and landing button, which makes the most tricky parts of flight a no-brainer. Just press and you’re up and flying, another press and the craft descends safely from any height. Brilliant. You also have an Emergency button and a Return to Home button for those times when things get out of hand, or you lose sight of where your craft is. Of course this is no guarantee you won’t lose your quad, but it’s an extra measure of safety.
The really cool thing about the camera is how well it shoots no matter how jerkily you pilot from the ground. The software has some pretty amazing stabilization code built in, which keeps the video rock steady, even when the quad is rocking, which is something no other quadcopter of this price offers. Combined with the amazing zero distortion 180 degree fish eye lens, means you can grab some superb video from your flights. We weren’t able to try it outside in our launch day test, but the video which is already surfacing shows just how cool this setup is.
One of the other very neat things is the optional SkyController, which extends the range of the WiFi control out from 300 meters to something like 1.2 miles (2 kilometers), which is a huge distance for control. We suspect that those are ideal scenario figures, so we would expect a lot less in real world conditions, but even so, it’s a really impressive range. You’ll probably struggle to use it all with just 12 minutes flight time per battery though.
There are a lot of reasonable priced quadcopters with cameras coming on to the market nowadays, and we’re getting more and more impressed with how the technology is maturing. From the early days of impossible to fly quads, through standout products like the Phantom Vision and now to this Parrot, the whole market is starting to soar. The Bebop with its dual indoor (sensors) and outdoor (GPS) stability systems takes things to a new level.
The Parrot Bebop is also a standout product, which re-defines ease of use and shows exactly what can be done when you pay enough attention to the integration of software and advanced imaging code. The rock steady, high resolution video results, coupled with outstanding ease of use in flying really make this the prosumer quadcopter camera to beat at the moment. It’s not the cheapest on the market by far, but in this mid range area we see it gaining a huge number of fans as the benefits start to become more widely known.
Price: £429.99 (with SkyController – £769.99)
CPU Dual core A9
– Open source SDK
. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
. Wi-Fi MIMO 2.4 and 5GHz
– GNSS: GPS+GLONASS
– Inertial unit: Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Altimeter, Ultrasound, Vertical camera
– Battery: Lithium Polymer 1200mAh
– Flight time per battery: about 11 minutes (2 batteries included)
– Compatibility: iOS, Android and Windows Phone smartphones/tablets
– Weight: 390 g without hull – 410 g with hull
– Dimensions: 33x38x3.6 cm with hull
28x32x3, 6cm without hull
– 8 Gb flash memory
– 4096 x 3072
– Format jpeg, RAW, DNG
– 1920 x 1080 (30fps)
– Format H.264 (MPEG 4)