Parrot hosted a launch event for their new MiniDrones in Sydney this afternoon, announcing Australian availability and pricing for their new Rolling Spider and Jumping SumoMiniDrones. The products will hit Australian retailers in August and are available for preorder online now.
Chris Roberts, Parrot’s APAC Managing Director, gave us a brief history of the French company and their diverse product range – from remote-controlled cars through high-end headphones and in-car entertainment systems, to the famous AR Drone.
The company has a rich history of innovating with technology in their products, and isn’t afraid to push it forward to make new, fun products. Roberts explained that when Parrot is asked why they make toys, their answer boils down to, “why not?”. The company likes to make things that fly, and we can’t fault them on that.
It’s with this playful attitude in mind that we come to the two newest members of the Parrot family, coming in under the new MiniDrone product line. Of course, we got plenty of hands-on time as well, but that’s not to say we were completely capable of controlling them (it’s a good thing Parrot’s PR folks take a light-hearted approach to drones crashing into them).
The Rolling Spider looks like a miniature version of the AR Drone, and that’s true in many respects. Unlike Parrot’s other drone products, you connect to the Rolling Spider with Bluetooth (a Bluetooth 4.0 BLE connection) to control it. Otherwise, it features the same stabilised four-propeller flight, and with the FreeFlight app you can make it turn, ascend, descend and move forward/back. There’s also a few tricks like flips built into the app that are simplified to the point where you can pull off at the push of a button to impress onlookers with a few aerial acrobatics.
The Rolling Spider has a light set of plastic rings on a carbon fibre axis that attaches to the main body. This performs two tasks – firstly, safety (in case you fly too close to someone), but it also allows the drone to roll along the ground (under its own power) and gives the impression that it’s climbing walls. Parrot staff flew them around the room during today’s presentation:
I managed to get the red Rolling Spider demo to hover in front of me long enough for a 360 degree view:
The Rolling Spider’s got a camera under the fuselage that the onboard computer users to help stabilise it during flight, and you can also use it to take a snapshot of whatever’s below it as it flies through the air. There’s 1GB storage built in to store the pics, and a MicroUSB connector to retrieve them.
It’ll ship in blue, white and red and includes a set of stickers so you can personalise it to your tastes by adding a face. The drones we saw flying around today had a few stickers attached providing added intimidation when a journalist who was slightly in control of the drone accidentally flew it past me.
If death from above isn’t your thing, maybe the Jumping Sumo will tickle your fancy. It’s a ground-bound rolling drone with two large wheels encompassing its body. It can roll around the room at up to 7km/hr and turn itself around quickly, and it includes a spring mechanism allowing it to perform a long jump and a high jump. It can jump up onto objects about 80cm tall.
You’ll be able to program waypoints and actions for the Jumping Sumo to perform as it makes its way around the room. As you can see in the demo video, you can use this function to construct an obstacle course for the Sumo and program its way through it. It can also record video, so you
I’m looking forward to seeing how my cat will react to the Jumping Sumo.
Like the Rolling Spider, the Jumping Sumo also comes with stickers to give it a personality, but it also makes a few sounds to give it a bit of an emotional connection and there’s some little movements (called Animations) that you can make it perform to give it a bit more of a personality. I found myself making it swivel around when I missed a jump and experimenting with the Animations to provide a bit more of a show for onlookers.
I also shot a video of the Jumping Sumo, although I ended up a little unprepared for its actual jumps:
There was also a slo-mo video booth on hand to encourage everyone to record some fun videos with silly props. I made sure I got one of me launching the Rolling Spider, which has a fun trick that makes it start flying when thrown into the air. We sort of managed to capture the moment:
Both of the new MiniDrones are controlled by Parrot’s AR FreeFlight app, which will be updated to version 3 in line with the launch of the new drones.
The Rolling Spider has an RRP of $139.99, while the Jumping Sumo runs $219.99. Both MiniDrones will be available in August but you can preorder them now.
There’s also official ad spots for both products, in case my videos aren’t good enough 😉
We’re looking forward to taking the new drones out for a spin when review units arrive in the next few weeks.
Are you interested in Parrot’s new MiniDrones? Which one, and why? Tell us in the comments!