Four years after Parrot introduced its first iPhone-controlled drone at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the Paris, France-based wireless hardware maker has unveiled two new flying robots at CES 2014.
One is the MiniDrone, a smaller version of the company’s popular AR.Drone 2.0, and the other is a heretofore secret project: the Jumping Sumo, a tiny two-wheeled robot that can turn on a dime or jump about three feet.
Both drones will almost certainly be cheaper than the $299 AR.Drone 2.0, which is Parrot’s flying, flipping drone that can float 165 feet in the air, record video in 720p HD and let users see through the drone’s perspective directly from their mobile device. But unlike Parrot’s two-year-old quadcopter, the new MiniDrone and Jumping Sumo can both fit in the palm of your hand.
The Incredible Shrinking Drones
The MiniDrone performs similarly to the AR.Drone, with smartphone users able to adjust the altitude, rotation, pitch, and yaw of the robot on the MiniDrone iOS app. The Parrot MiniDrone is roughly one-tenth the size of the AR.Drone and comes with two removable wheels that allow the MiniDrone to roll around floors, walls, and ceilings, in addition to flying. The one drawback of the MiniDrone is its lack of an on-board camera or video output like the full-size AR.Drone, which means users will have to be happy watching MiniDrone fly or roll around in adorable little patterns without seeing the action from its point of view.
Compared to the AR.Drone and MiniDrone, the Jumping Sumo is less of a drone and more of a remote-controlled toy spider. It is built with an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and two large wheels that are independently controlled, which means smartphone users can perform quick 90-degree turns and 180-degree pirouettes with just a quick flick of the thumb. And, as its name suggests, the Jumping Sumo is spring-loaded and can jump about three feet high.
The Jumping Sumo also comes with a few other nifty features, including the latest Wi-Fi standard, dual-band 802.11ac, as well as a QVGA camera to let users see through the Jumping Sumo’s perspective. The Jumping Sumo can drive in a 160-foot range from the iOS device running the app and features 20 minutes of battery life, which is a significant improvement over the 12 minutes of battery life found in the AR.Drone 2.0.
Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux offered no further details about the pricing or release dates for either of its two drones, but the company says the MiniDrone and Jumping Sumo are currently in pre-production and will be available “sometime this year.”
Parrot will have three different drone models available by the end of the year, but the government still continues to express concern with Parrot’s consumer-friendly robots, which can fly hundreds of feet high and record whatever they see.
In the U.S., the FAA says Parrot AR.Drones cannot fly above 400 feet and cannot be used for commercial purposes. (That hasn’t stopped Amazon from exploring the concept of retail deliveries with its own fleet of drones.)
The federal government won’t issue the first domestic drone permits in the U.S. until September 2015. Until that time comes, lawmakers across several states are attempting to introduce legislation to control how domestic drones are used, especially by the police and military, but the FAA predicts 30,000 drones will be patrolling the U.S. skies by 2020.