So, I went ahead and bought the Parrot AR.Drone. Right off the bat, I like the aircraft. It still strikes me as mildly magical the way it takes off and lands on its own. I waited a couple of years to own one since I first heard about the drone quadracopter. The reason I waited was that it required an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to control it. When an app was available that allowed Android devices to control the drone.
I spent just under $300 for the drone on Amazon.com. It took them almost two weeks to deliver it, which was a bit disappointing. Anyway, I took it out of the box, followed the WiFi setup instructions and took it outside to fly. I have flown it for about 10 hours all together. I bought an extended current Parrot compatible battery and I’m glad I did. The stock battery gives about 12 minutes of flying time. The extended current battery gives about 40 minutes.
The outdoor hull, while it offers no protection for propeller strikes, offers “snappier” control of the drone. I’m pretty sure that’s because there is less mass and inertia involved. Anyway, I was flying the drone with my Motorola Droid 2 smartphone and was very impressed with the setup. Then my phone got upgraded. Suddenly I was left with bad wifi connection; I kept losing the control connection to the drone. It’s not that big a deal, the drone would merely hover where it was when it lost contact. Also, it responded to the landing button, so when it lost connection I simply pressed the landing button and then reconnected the wifi. But it got old, I was only getting a minute or so of flight before it would disconnect.
I had wanted to use my Toshiba Thrive Android tablet to control the drone too. But my drone demanded ad hoc wifi connections and the Thrive does not support them. So I was temporarily grounded. But then I found out that there was an update for the drone that would allow infrastructure wifi connections instead of ad hoc. So to fix the connection problem to my phone and to be able to use the Thrive, I needed to update the drone’s OS. There is a way to do it through your PC –if you have a free wifi interface to use. But I kept having trouble getting the update to ‘take’ on the drone. It kept failing. I finally threw my hands in the air and bought an 8 GB iPod Touch. Refurbished, I paid a couple hundred bucks for it. When it arrived, I loaded the AR.Drone Free Flight app and connected to my drone. It asked me if I would like to update my drone and I said ‘Y.’ A couple minutes later it told me to disconnect and reconnect to the drone, so I temporarily disconnected the battery. When I powered back up, it said I had the latest version of the OS! I then fired up mt Toshiba and found that I could connect to the drone with the Thrive. Woo Hoo. I tried my Droid 2 phone and it worked great again. I have to unpair the drone every time I change controllers, but that’s no big deal in light of now being able to control the drone with my phone, tablet and iPod.