Wondering what it's like to fly the Parrot AR.Drone we covered earlier this evening? So were we, so we headed straight toward the thing at tonight's Unveiled event. Speaking with representatives with Parrot they were unfortunately tight-lipped when it came to the details, but did at least confirm that the only connection to the device is WiFi. In theory, any device that supports 802.11 can connect to the drone to send controls to it and, interestingly, download video from the camera on the nose. The first such device is the iPhone and while the reps indicated they aren't working on apps for any other platforms, they did promise to release all the control libraries to the world, meaning apps can be more easily written for a number of platforms -- in theory. But what was it like to fly? Click through to read our impressions.
We were given control of the AR.Drone for a few minute demo, but were sad to learn that iPhone app was non-functional. Too many WiFi devices, we were told, so they threw it into a sort of self-flying sentient mode where it locked onto a green and orange can. The camera on the nose picked up the colors and followed it like a hawk, moving left and right and up and down in response to the cone. Take a step forward and it zipped a foot back. Sure, it's not the tower flyby we're hoping to experience, but the stability of the device was impressive -- and we were given a negative on the flyby anyway, told if we pulled that stunt one more time we'd be stuck flying a cargo plane full of rubber novelty toys over somewhere unsavory.
Anyhow, those colored cans are actually how the AR.Drones lock on to each other when flying a combat sortie, when folks who are lucky enough to have two of the things are able to duel. That's a situation we hope to be in very soon, at a place where WiFi interference should be mitigated, and where -- with any luck -- we'll get into a little dogfight action. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the company isn't talking cost or availability, but we'd recommend saving your pennies now.
Update: Florian e-mailed us to let us know that signs could be pointing to a release in the not too distant future. If you take a look at the official Facebook page for the AR.Drone, in the first photo gallery there is a comment from Parrot saying " Parrot AR.Drone, launched on March 5, 2010!" That happens to almost exactly correspond with a certain and very deserving blogger's birthday...