A few weeks ago I received here a rather large but very light box. Sitting inside it was one of the most fun "toys" to reach the market in the last few months.
The AR.Drone is a hovering toy, with four vertical propellers, remote controlled with your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. It comes with a built-in video camera and altimeter.
You install the free remote control app on your device using the Apple iTunes App Store, and connect to it via WiFi. You will see the AR.Drone as a wireless access point. Once paired the app will check the device firmware, proceed with any updates if needed and present you with the view you would have if you were sitting on your AR.Drone - if it was big enough.
Controls are simple, but it still requires some dexterity and a bit of time to get used to it. It comes with an indoor hull (the one with polysterene all around in the pictures below) and an outdoor hull (with no protection around). Make sure you have lots of space around you.
It is very responsive but you will need to get used to looking through the app some times to "see" what the AR.Drone is seeing, and where you are going.
You basically need both hands to control it. With one hand you push an on screen button that acts like a clutch and then just move your device around to get the AR.Drone to move left/right, front/back. With another hand you have access to another on screen button that will make it go up/down or spin on spot. There's a landing button than will bring it slowly to the ground and an emergency button that will simply stop it and see the AR.Drone coming down hard.
Also be careful with wind. Even a light breeze (and here in windy Wellington there's always some breeze) will take it off course, as I found out while testing the AR.Drone in a public park. Lucky it was a rather large one, and I got used with the need to compensate for the wind when flying.
While testing at the park a few people came to me commenting on the AR.Drone. Kids loved it and thought it was really fun. Dads thought it was worth the prices. Mums probably thought "Oh, no... Something else for him to buy" or just though of buying one themselves.
There are lots settings you can play with, and the device won't go away easily. If it ever runs out of the WiFi range it will automatically land.
Here's a video:
The indoor hull is good for testing, but alas it breaks, as I found out. I was just taking off when the AR.Drone leaned forwarded, bumped into the wall and landed. That was enough for the polysterene to break - nothing major but a replacement hull costs $59. Knowing it's available just makes it obvious they know this will break.
The electronics are very nice, and they even have an API, which allows developers to create their own software and applications - things like multi AR.Drones gaming, third party controllers, etc.
Below are some pictures:
- It is a lot of fun
- An open API allows for developers to create even more games and activities for the AR.Drone
- Good hand-eye coordination training tool