It costs less than a quarter of the $1,400 bill of materials estimated for the Japanese Defense Ministry's flying sphere. The battery gives it a running time of only 12 minutes. And its CPU is only a 468MHz ARM9. But the AR.Drone 2.0, which Parrot introduced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, has impressive hovering, takeoff, and landing abilities similar to those of the Japanese sphere. (You can access videos here and here.)
The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 has a streamlined hull for outside use. For inside use,
a full hull shield protects it from impact.
The AR.Drone 2.0 is the second version of the popular flying robot, which its maker calls a flying, augmented reality video game. It's got on-board video cameras and WiFi for streaming video to the handheld control device, which can be an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. Though it was designed for Apple platforms, it will be available on other hardware "in the next few months," the company says. It can also be controlled with a Linux PC and a joystick using the AR.Drone Navigation software, which is available for free and was designed for application developers.
With some imagination and better electronics, the robot could be both cheap and powerful enough to form a design platform for machine vision and military applications. It's also really cool to look at, and I bet it's a lot of fun to play with. If I were an engineer, I'd want to figure out how to make it more powerful without weighing too much more or compromising its moves.
The Parrot quadricopter is made of carbon fiber and high-resistance PA66 plastic, a polyamide, or nylon. Its embedded CPU runs Linux, and memory is kept at a low 128Mbytes of 200MHz DDR. Running speed is 16.4 feet per second, or 11.2mph. With its protective hull for indoor use, it measures 20.7 inches x 20.3 inches. Outdoors, without the hull, the Parrot measures 17.7 inches x 11.4 inches. With or without the hull, it weighs less than a pound.
You're absolutely right Ann: I bet a lot of engineers are going to be drooling over this robot and the opportunity to figure out how it works and to extend it. Is this designed to be a toy or is just to showcase technology that has broader potential--perhaps for some of the applications you mentioned?
This is cool, Ann. I would imagine we'll see a proliferation of this -- going downmarket for inexpensive toys for kids and going upmarket for the adult hobbyists who go out to parks on Saturday mornings with their radio-operated planes.
Beth, the Parrot appears to be designed as a (very sophisticated) toy, although I doubt the gamers would call it that. Most of the videos show teens using it, but as Rob points out, many adults play with these, too. The elements of the technology itself have been showcased with way better hardware elsewhere, including the Japanese flying sphere, or various military drone prototypes. OTOH, because it's open platform, users are encouraged to design and build their own. It's me looking at it with my would-be engineer's mentality and industrial machine vision reporting experience thinking: How is this put together? What would happen if I changed this and tweaked that? that makes me think about other applications like military and industrial MV. I assume engineers will be, too.
Ann, This is a very cool design and represents an interesting piece of technology. The 12 minute limitation on flying time does represent a bit of a downer, even though you can see why it's true. I assume the batteries are easily accessible and can be replaced to keep the fun times rolling.
I personally see an opportunity to put nano-drones to use in the Florida everglades. I envision swarms of nano-drones mounted with one sensor device capable of seeking out Burmese Pythons and one poison dart capable of delivering said Pythons a lethal dose.
Sounds Matrixy, but desperate situations call for outside of the box sci-fi thinking.
Otherwise, surprised that no one has started a snake canning/packing company to sell to Asia and other markets where snake meat is popular.
Yes, that's the sort of military drone app I had in mind when I saw the AR.Drone game platform (I've been calling it the Parrot because that's the maker's name and it kind of looks like one to me). Thanks for the info about Lockheed-Martin. I checked it out and found this reference (with video) to the Samarai, a small, spinning surveillance drone with a 360-degree view:
Is this the one you had in mind? It looks highly targeted to a surveillance app. But I'd be surprised if military developers aren't paying attention to potential inspiration in the consumer sector, such as the AR.Drone.
Al, the 12-minute flying time limit of the batteries is one of the various characteristics that screams "toy" about this design. But battery use and type, like other performance specs, can be altered by changes in both hardware and software.
I think JPW's nano-drone concept is interesting, although I would not have thought of using them as a device for snake seek-and-destroy missions. Sounds like you've got quite a problem over there! Hmmm, maybe I could use them out here for skunks, which can be quite a pest this time of year.
That's a great video, Ann. Yes, the Samarai is the one I had in mind. Your point about the consumer sector is well taken, however. Often the consumer sector finds ways to accomplish similar things on a shoestring budget.
OK, thought it must be the Samarai from your description. But this is so simple kids could have designed it; it's much less complex than the AR.Drone or the Japanese flying sphere, or even other stuff the military has done along these lines. Maybe the military needs to start hiring teenagers for their design team...
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