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Parrot unleashes 13 new Linux based mini-drones

Jun 12, 2015 — by Eric Brown 4,494 views

Parrot revealed 13 new Linux-based mini-drones including new jumping and airborne models with headlights, an airborne cargo quadcopter, and a hydrofoil.

Parrot’s 13 new mini-drones expand upon last year’s similarly toy-like Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo. The products are all selling for 199 Euros ($220) or less in France. By comparison, Parrot’s higher end AR.Drone 2.0 sells for $300, and its more advanced Bebop Drone goes for $500 and up. The new products will go on sale in the U.K. and perhaps globally in early July, according to the Engadget story that alerted us to the announcement.

Parrot’s new mini-drones
(click image to enlarge)

Parrot’s new drones are split into three categories: Jumping (a rolling, jumping robot), Airborne (quadcopter), and Hydrofoil (and Airborne attached to a hydrofoil boat). There are 13 models all told, but these mostly appear to be external style and color choices. According to Parrot’s French-language spec sheets, they can all be programmed with Linux SDKs. (Our understanding of French may be slim, but Linux in French is still Linux!)

All the mini-drones can be controlled via mobile devices by either WiFi or Bluetooth, depending on the model. They use the same Freeflight 3.0 app used by the AR.Drone, Bebop, Jumping Sumo, and Rolling Spider. You can control the device directly or have it follow a pre-drawn road map directing its path. All the new mini-drones have 550mAh batteries and micro-USB ports for charging.



Like the Jumping Sumo, the Jumping devices are two-wheeled robots that can jump up to 80cm (about 2.5 feet) in height and length. Thanks to a built-n gyroscope, they “always land on their wheels,” says Parrot. The devices have retractable wheels.

Jumping Race and Jumping Night mini-drones
(click images to enlarge)

As with the Jumping Sumo, you can control the 186 x 155 x 116mm Jumping bots via WiFi ac at up to 50 meters using FreeFlight. You can create FreeFlight preprogrammed road maps that include navigation paths, as well as a choice of a stunts, such as spinning like a top, pushing an object, and various jumping moves.

No processor or RAM details were supplied, but Parrot says the devices include 4GB of flash to store movies from the 640 x 480-pixel VGA cameras. Other features include a speaker, a microphone, and a 550mAh battery that can last 20 minutes and recharge in 25.

So far, this is much like the Jumping Sumo. However, the devices are offered in two main families — Night and Race — that offer some new twists. The three Night models — Diesel, Buzz, and Marshall — can roll along at up to 7 km/h and weigh 192 g each. Their claim to fame is the ability to see in dim light. The LEDs don’t have infrared vision, but feature LEDs that act as flashlights for the camera. The lights can also be programmed to flash or blink to send signals.

The 205-gram Race models — Max, Tuk-Tuk, and Jett — are built for speed, or at least a 13 km/h speed maximum that is activated via a manual “boost” feature. The retractable wheels can be set wide for top speed on smooth terrain or closer together to squeeze through narrow spaces. The jumping range slips down to 75 cm.


The five Airborne models are split into three Night models with LED lighting — Blaze, SWAT, and McClane — as well as Travis and Mars “Cargo” models that can carry tiny loads. The Airborne quadcopters are smaller than the AR.Drone 2.0 or Bebop, but larger than the flight-capable Rolling Spider, at 150 x 150 x 40mm. Still, they weigh almost the same as the Rolling Spider, at 54 grams, in part because they lack the Spider’s wheels.

Airborne Cargo and Airborne Night mini-drones
(click images to enlarge)

The miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) measure 185 x 180 x 40mm and weigh 63 grams. They can travel at up to 18 km/h, but only for nine minutes without the protective hull. Charging is once again listed at 25 minutes.

The mini-drones can do aerial tricks such as turning 90 or 180 degrees or doing loops in all directions. There’s no WiFi, but you can control them via Bluetooth and FreeFlight 3.0 at up to 30 meters.

The Airborne quadcopters are limited to 1GB of flash RAM to store images from the vertically fixed VGA cameras. The cameras cannot do video because their chief duty is navigational — by taking a snapshot every 16 milliseconds, they can estimate speed. They can still save stills images, as well, however. Other features include a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, and an ultrasonic sensor with a range of up to four meters to judge altitude.

The three night models appear have LED lighting much like the Jumping devices. The Cargo versions lack the mini headlights, but have a “Lego-style receptor,” as Engadget puts it. We didn’t see any payload limit, but we imagine it’s pretty low.


And now for something completely different. The Hydrofoil model is an Airborne model that can fly about like the other Airbornes, but can also be attached to a twin-hulled toy boat. The 320 x 320 x 140mm, 247-gram Hydrofoil is available in Orak and Newz models.

Hydrofoil mini-drone
(click images to enlarge)

When the quadcopter is attached to the boat and activated, it folds up to a vertical position so the blades act as air propellers. The boat can run at up to seven minutes at 10 km/h (5.4 knots), traveling just slightly above the surface of the water. Unattached from the boat, the quadcopters can fly at 18 km/h.

Like the Airborne, you can control the Hydrofoil via Bluetooth at up to 20 meters using FreeFlight 3.0. The spec list shows only a still-image VGA camera, along with 1GB flash. There’s no mention of video, but Engadget seems to suggest you can get a first-person video view, and the YouTube video below appears to suggest the camera can be mounted underwater. We’ll await more details as the products are launched in greater detail.

Hydrofoil mini-drone in action

Further information

The new Parrot mini-drones are available now in France, and will go on sale in the U.K., and perhaps elsewhere on July 2. Prices are €199 ($220) for the Jumping models, €129 ($145) for the Airborne quadcopters, and €169 ($190) for the Hydrofoil. More information may be found in this Parrot announcement, translated from the French, and at Parrot’s mini-drones product page.

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