Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider
The clear hit at my Holiday Gadget talks this season has been the Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider -- a personal mini drone toy that normal humans can have fun with, even without needing videogame reflexes.
Verizon Wireless kindly loaded the MiniDrone from its Holiday Gift Guide as a great demo of the amazing capabilities of today's wireless technology.
This does not even come with a controller -- It's totally managed and flown from your smartphone.
So for around $99, you too can have your own personal mini drone, to fly around your house or yard, do tricks, and shoot photos.
What makes the Rolling Spider work so well is that is a quadricopter, with four rotors. This balanced design is particularly popular for drones, as it allows for smaller motors and blades and easier control.
In addition, the Rolling Spider has multiple onboard sensors and processing that allow it to launch itself from the floor at the push of a button, stabilize itself, and then hover still in the air until you move it. You even can blow on it as it is hovering, and it will re-stabilize.
The sensor technology packed in the MiniDrone for autopilot flying is amazing, including a 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer, pressure sensor for altitude, ultrasonic sensor for precision flying near the ground, and vertical camera at 60 fps to measure speed by comparing to the previous image.
As a result, normal people can fly this drone. You use the Parrot FreeFlight app on your smartphone (iOS, Android, or Windows Phone) to control it over Bluetooth. Fly in any direction (up to 11 mph), turn, and move up and down. It also has built-in tricks, to flip 360 degrees forward or backward -- again then automatically stabilizing and hovering in place.
As a proper drone, the Rolling Spider also has a downward-facing mini-camera, so you can take photos using the smartphone app. You can then download the photos when you're done flying, you can't watch video in real time.
But this definitely a toy, mini-sized and ridiculously light about 2 ounces. The body frame is around 2 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, and the rotors span 7 inch diameter.
The Rolling part of the name comes from a pair of large removable wheels that you can clip on to allow you to roll it along floors, walls, and ceilings. The wheels also provide protection for the blades if you happen to crash against the wall or ceiling -- When it senses a collision it automatically shuts down and drops to the floor.
You also can use the MiniDrone outdoors, but it's really too light to handle a non-trivial breeze. The light weight also means that it cannot carry the weight of a heavy battery, so it runs only around five to eight minutes on a charge. It then takes about an hour to recharge.
You also can use the Parrot Cloud to share and view sessions, acrobatics, and photos.
The Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider is available for $99, in white, blue, or red. It also comes with stickers to personalize its look. It's lots of fun at home with family and kids, and to fly over the audience at talks.
Check out the Parrot site for other drone designes, including more rugged ground and flying designs with live video.
Find the Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider on Amazon.com