Parrot_BebopDrone_Skycontroller

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 Parrot AR.Drone and 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."

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 11, 2014 at 4:36pm

Gary, I think the AR.Drones have always had brushless motors (aside from the early beta nearly four years ago, which was brushed). I've got five of them!

Comment by Gary McCray on May 11, 2014 at 4:37pm

If this comes in at a reasonable price, this is going to be a very serious consumer product and the fact that it is under a pound is going to make it extremely hard to simply legislate it of existence.

This is the kind of thing the market should truly be aiming for, largely because its intrinsic safety make it a much more reasonable entry device for people at all skill levels (and all levels of common sense for that matter).

It also means the general public is likely to see it as a much less threatening and benign presence.

Besides, I want one (even if it turns out it doesn't have non-geared brushless motors).

My Oculus Rift V2 has been on order for a month currently scheduled for August delivery seems like perfect timing.

The upcoming Phenox has a lot of that going for it as well.

My guess is they are still using LiPolys on the Parrot and if you substitutes series - parallel Lithiums I'll bet you could get 20 minutes and at this weight it is likely that you can do it within the C rating of lithiums.

Comment by Gary McCray on May 11, 2014 at 5:11pm

Thanks Chris I had only looked at one of the very old original ones, see my error now.

Can't wait to see this one available (at least if France will let them export it - small laugh!).

Really nice to see some remarkably capable and consumer friendly quads being announced.

Was actually talking with my friend Oliver a few days ago about the possibility of using 4K and only exporting a 1080P stabilized image from it - behind the curve again.

Comment by Oliver on May 11, 2014 at 8:26pm

Well, this is getting real close to what I and some others have been harping on for a long time: The near future holds aircraft capable of serious work and weighing less than a pound (that's roughly 500 grams, for those who need three digits to express one-digit concepts (=:  ). The FAA or any other "safety" body is going to look really silly trying to regulate these ... 

Comment by HeliStorm on May 11, 2014 at 9:40pm

THIS is starting to get to my dream of the micro camera quad. I have been trying out different ways of doign my own virtual gimbal system, and it looks like Parrot could be there. It will be interesting to see the resulting quality. If this comes in under $500, I think it will be a huge consumer hit, and will usher in an era when small personal, "drones," are as nearly ubiquitous as cellphones. And, as Oliver and Gary both said, at that point the floodgates will open, and the FAA will HAVE TO admit that small aircraft under a certain size just cannot be regulated in the same way full size aircraft, or even BIGGER RC aircraft are. All other manufacturers should be taking note. THIS is the future of these systems for the consumer. 

Comment by Micha on May 11, 2014 at 11:07pm

I hope this kind of action camera technology becomes mainstream fast so that we can use this style of camera with stabilization on any airframe.

I still have some questions left like quality of the lens, degrees of banking that is allowed, total amount of pixels on the sensor lost and last but not least, the dynamic range of the sensor.

Comment by titeuf007 on May 12, 2014 at 4:33am

i can say only  one thing:

french touch still the best lol

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on May 12, 2014 at 9:38am

Is that just a sunshade, or is it a patch antenna?


Developer
Comment by Bill Bonney on May 12, 2014 at 9:48am

It's a patch antenna, it's size isn't really a selling point. Size doesn't matter in antenna design. It achieves a longer range by directing the energy in a specific area, if it goes behind you, it will loose connection for sure.*

Now I said that, it may have diversity, in which case it would work as expected. ie a dipole and a patch antenna, who knows.

I also thought is was a sunshade until i saw the side on view, which clearly shows it would not work well like that.

I do like that to get a precession experience they are using RC control sticks and not touch. Not that unsurprising.

Comment by John Stuart on May 12, 2014 at 9:54am

The only problem with going smaller and smaller is lack of wind resistance. Its not fun flying any kind of aircraft and not being able to penetrate forward.

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