From The Verge:
Instead of using a motorized gimbal to move the camera — which would add additional weight — the Bebop Drone uses an ingenius combination of software and hardware to let a 180-degree fisheye lens do the trick. Using a dedicated image processor and loads of sensors, the drone simply carves out a nice small rectangular section of the huge curved fisheye image while simultaneously stabilizing the image digitally. That means you wind up throwing away a lot of the data, but it's hard to argue with the results: a clear, stabilized video feed from a tiny drone that weighs less than a pound.
Besides, the ability to rapidly chop up pieces of a huge fisheye image allows the Parrot to perform another neat trick. If you buy the optional Skycontroller — a giant R/C flight controller with huge antennas that can communicate with the drone from a full two kilometers away — you can also plug in an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and freely look around while piloting the drone from a first-person perspective. There was quite a bit of lag in a prototype we tried, which resulted in a painful-sounding crash into a wall, but it makes for an incredible out-of-body sensation and the featherweight drone emerged unharmed.
The elephant in the room is battery life, as the Bebop Drone is limited to 12-minute flights with its included 1200mAh battery pack. That's not a lot of time to get the perfect shot for a film, nor nearly enough to make a two-kilometer trip. It's also not clear what the drone might cost, but Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux said it will ring up somewhere between the original $300 Parrotand the $1,000 you might spend for one of DJI's camera-equipped Phantoms.
The Bebop Drone should ship in the fourth quarter of the year.
From USA Today:
The French company's new Bebop drone sports full HD video and cutting-edge image stabilization with a wide-angle 180-degree view. Like Parrot's other hobby drones, you control Bebop via an app on an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet.
What sets Bebop apart is the 14 megapixel fish-eye lens that captures and streams live HD views of its flight to the device you're using to pilot it and the stability Parrot is claiming, which is achieved by several on-board sensors — all in a device that weighs less than a pound.
The high tech specs make Bebop truly "a flying camera," Parrot founder and CEO Henri Seydoux told reporters at a demo in San Francisco last week.
Also available when it launches late this year: An accessory controller with four antennas that lets you tap into an amplified Wi-Fi radio to extend the flight range up to 2 kilometers. Battery life, though, is just 12 minutes.
Oh, and if you happen to be a tech geek with a developer version of the Oculus Rift augmented reality glasses, you can use those to pilot the thing.
No pricing details were announced.
Paris-based Parrot has been around since the 1990s and has an eclectic catalog. It started out selling wireless devices. Now, it offers headphones and in-car hands-free audio products. And it has buzzed into the commercial drone market.
It's perhaps best known for its app-controlled AR.Drone, which it showed off at CES in January along with a couple of other new hobby-level variations on it. The current flagship model costs around $300.
At the San Francisco event, Seydoux touted Bebop's pint-sized weight, maneuverability and ease of use. The geek-chic factor is incredible, to be sure. But Parrot also is clearly aiming beyond the small hobbyist market.
Seydoux imagined uses for business customers including architects. As part of the demo at San Francisco's historic Old Mint building, he gamely donned an Oculus headset and piloted Bebop indoors.
"This can be used as more of a tool than anything else they have done," says Andrew Amato, managing editor of a new website called Dronelife that covers the nascent drone industry. "I think it's going to appeal to the hobbyist market that Parrot knows well, but also to videographers and real estate and architecture-based customers."
Stabilization of the camera is key, he says. Currently, you can spend hundreds of dollars for add-ons to help stabilize drone images.
The latest drone from competitor DJI also is aimed at videography. Its Phantom Vision 2 weighs 2.5 pounds and can snap 14-mp images, record 1080p video, and livestream footage to a mobile device. It starts at $999.
The burgeoning drone industry has stirred no shortage of angst over privacy issues. Seydoux acknowledged the concerns. But he said restrictions inherent in personal drone use make it "not particularly more dangerous" than smartphone cameras or products like Google Glass.
As for the Oculus tie-in — that was a natural fit, says Amato at Dronelife.
"It's something that people who own both the AR drone and Oculus have already started playing around with. There are videos on YouTube of people who have custom-built systems like that."