Like the Japanese flying sphere, the Parrot has gyro sensors that enable its impressive takeoff and landing abilities. When I wrote the Japanese sphere story, I couldn't find out whether the sphere's gyros were MEMS-based -- nor could anyone else, since it's a defense project -- but I wouldn't be surprised. The Parrot uses a three-axis accelerometer, a two-axis gyrometer, and a single-axis yaw precision gyrometer. I'd bet the Japanese sphere has an accelerometer, in addition to its gyros. It may also have an ultrasound altimeter, like the Parrot, which has a range of six feet.
The Parrot's front camera is a low-resolution VGA with a 93-degree wide-angle diagonal lens and 3D detection capabilities. The bottom camera has a 64-degree diagonal lens with a frame speed of 60fps, which is twice that of a typical machine vision inspection application. Operators can switch between the two for video feedback on the iPod Touch or iPhone control screen using a button in the application.
Actually I think they're evolving into home entertainment centers. When I was a kid and a teen, all I wanted to do was to sit in the driver's seat and pretend to be the driver. Now, I'd much rather be in the back, reclining or sleeping or watching a DVD while cocooned from any potential dangers by 25 airbags and 12 cup holders.
@naperlou: Hotrodding the AR is tricky. Each motor has it's own microcontroller and drive circuitry. Switching to larger motors means reverse engineering the controller protocol and matching the timing, which I have heard is rather tight. As the weather gets better, I'll be more inclined to mess around with things that fly.
As for general overall design style. The tri-,quad-,hexa-copters are designed in the short-flight, agile, high-energy use arena. The drones we hear the most about in the news are long distance, energy efficient, long flight-time designs (liquid fueled) which brings the design back to aeroplane shapes.
The copter-drones have been used to look inside buildings after earthquakes and other short flight applications.
From boats to airplanes to...rocket ships? I know "rocket ships" sounds kind of 50s/60s, but that's what some of these newer car shapes make me think of. But maybe that's a continuance of the airplane cockpit look.
Re the cars, they also evolved from looking like houses on wheels (1910s and 1920s) to looking like boats, to airplanes, to. . . I actually forget what the analogy is for current vehicles. My observation about U.S. versus Japanese drones (military vs. manga) is original, but the car thing is an old one. You can really see how the first cars were like houses on wheels, with the high "walls" etc. Today, driver's seats are like airplance cockpits, and they'll get more so as we see the introduction of heads-up displays. That'll be a good thing, because it'll force drivers to actually look at the windshield, offering some hope that perhaps they'll look OUT it, too.
What an interesting observation, that US drones look like our military planes, whereas Japanese versions look like their fictional sci-fi characters. Makes total sense to me. Car styles used to reflect more of their respective cultures, too, back in the day, as did clothing, household objects and a ton of other things. Interestingly, Parrot the company is based in Paris. European design is extremely different from US design, in many different consumer products anyway as well as fashion, and some of it reminds me of modern Japanese design.
curious_device, thanks for your feedback. Good to hear from someone who's actually hacked the AR.Drone, and thanks for the confirmation of what I imagined: that it wouldn't take much to build a more powerful full-featured, multi-capable drone on top of this versatile open platform.
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