The Parrot AR.Drone lets you achieve your life long dream of piloting a remote control drone – and you don’t even have to join the military. Jokes aside, the AR.Drone is one of the coolest gadgets I’ve seen in while – it’s a quad-rotor helicopter, which is controlled by an iPhone or an iPod touch. In case you were wondering what the AR stands for – yes, it stands for Augmented Reality or in other words really cool looking games (including multiplayer ones).
Okay, before I go on, here’s a promo video to give you a better idea of what the whole AR.Drone deal is about if my overexcited explanations don’t do the trick.
The way the AR.Drone works is by setting up a connection between your iPhone (or iPod touch) and itself over Wi-Fi. It uses the multi-touch display on the iPhone (same with the iPod touch) to give the user several controls for flying the drone – pitch and yaw I guess, I’m no aviation expert. The device accelerometer also comes into play for the more complex maneuvers.
There’s a front-facing camera on the AR.Drone, which streams video in real time, which is actually what earns it its “drone” moniker – you can fly it remotely, you don’t have to keep it within line of sight. But you need to fly the Droid within Wi-Fi reach of your phone.
If the drone does get out of range, the limited autopilot kicks in – it lands the AR.Drone softly and safely on the ground. It’s also used when starting the drone (it auto lifts off and hovers a meter over the ground until you take control) and also keeps the drone level and stable when hovering.
Now for the bit that surely must have caught your attention – the Augmented Reality gaming. There are two modes – single player and multiplayer. In single player mode, you have two options – one, use a “3D tag” to position a giant robot and fight it, dodging its missiles all the way, or two, “Drone War”, which pits you against waves of enemy drones.
The multiplayer mode uses a colored, removable tag, so that two drones can visually recognize one another. That enables aerial combat between two drones, controlled by two people.
There’s a developer’s SDK so I fully expect additional games to become available after the AR.Drone is released.
Speaking of releasing, “release date: 2010” is all I’ve seen for now. So, soon enough I suppose, but the real question is how much it will cost (I can’t imagine an iPhone accessory, a flying drone no less, can be cheap in any conceivable way).
Before I go, here’s the motherload of videos. Enjoy.