If you'll recall, it was just yesterday that we spied the Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0 banners here at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the run-up to CES, followed today by a leak of what appeared to be the official press release. So, it's not like the cat -- or in this case quadricopter -- wasn't already partially out of the bag, but now at least, it's officially, well, official. The new Drone touts much improved 720p HD video-recording capability, a revamped app with updated flight controls and features, along with revised hardware and reinforced hulls. We recently spent a few minutes with the smartphone-controlled UAV, so head on past the break for our brief impressions and a quick video overview.

Parrot AR.Drone2.0 (hands-on)

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Off the bat, it's clear that the AR.Drone 2.0 is more aggressively styled, with sharper edges and streamlined curves. The new indoor hull has also be re-enforced, for even more protection against any accidental floor-dives. Parrot's also aimed to streamline the user experience, starting with its Freeflight 2.0 app for Android and iOS, which acts as a portal to all of the AR's various flight modes and related games and software. Notably, unlike it's predecessor, you can now capture videos and photos straight from your device and then share them to site like YouTube. Better yet, it also features a new "traveling" mode, which allows for autonomous video recording along a pre-determined flight path -- perfect for budding filmmakers who'd like some aerial pizzaz. The Drone's HD camera is notably smoother looking during flight, with much less video-stutter than what could be achieved with the original. While we weren't able to take out our own clip, we were shown some previously recorded videos loaded on the iPad being used to control it, and they certainly looked very good.


When it comes to flying, Parrot has made two notable additions to the UAV itself, which allows for more easier control. Along with the previous array of sensors, it now has a 3D magnetometer which allows it to auto-orient based on it's front camera and the position of the smartphone you're using. Furthermore, thanks to an added "pressure sensor," pilots will be able to fly higher than the previous model, in upwards of six meters. Impressively, having all of these new updates and features, we're told the AR.Drone 2.0 will manage the same amount of flying time as its predecessor. If you're flying bug is getting the best of you, you'll be pleased to know that the AR.Drone 2.0 is set to ship is "Q2 of this year," at the same $300 price point of its older sibling.


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Parrot 'AR.Drone 2.0': High-Definition Excitement!

At CES Las Vegas 2012, Parrot, a global leader in wireless devices for mobile phones, reveals the
AR.Drone 2.0, the new generation of its renowned high-tech quadricopter that can be controlled by Wi-Fi using a smartphone or tablet1.

1 List of compatible smartphones and touchscreen tablets available at www.parrot.com

With a new high-definition camera, video recording, flight data sharing, new piloting mode, increased stability
and brand-new look, the AR.Drone 2.0 offers an experience like no other!

A flying HD camera

While in flight, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0's front camera transmits real-time what the quadricopter
sees onto the pilot's device screen.

For the first time the AR.Drone 2.0 camera, with a 1280x720 resolution, shows a view from the
sky in high definition with smooth and unbelievable images.

The pilot enjoys an experience like never before, as if he was on board. For gaming purposes, this
camera also can recognize specific shapes and colors to show augmented-reality elements on the
smartphone's screen.


Record and share flying experiences

Thanks to the new AR.FreeFlight 2.0 piloting application, players can record their own HD
videos and watch them or share them with the AR.Drone community.

Additionally, with the "travelling" feature, the pilot can film HD video sequences like a
professional! Simply select the direction of travel (forward, back, sideways) and the duration, and the AR.Drone 2.0 does the rest.
AR.FreeFlight 2.0, a new piloting and sharing platform

In addition to flying the AR.Drone, new application AR.FreeFlight 2.0 – available to download for free from the AppStoreSM and AndroidTM Market – offers players a new interface and several options.



. FreeFlight: Access to the piloting application.
The pilot can record flights, take HD videos or photos
and save them in the piloting device. All the flight data
(altitude, speed, duration and place) can be saved,
checked by the pilot and shared with the community.
. Guest Space: Access an overview of the AR.Drone
2.0, the best flight videos and practical information.
. Drone Update: Access the AR.Drone 2.0's free
software updates.
. AR.Drone Academy: Get geolocation data of the best flight zones, watch other pilots' videos
and access their shared flight data.
. AR.Games: Access applications/games available for the AR.Drone.
. Photos/Videos: Directly access your own videos and photos. Watch or upload to YouTube
for the community to enjoy.


'Absolute Flight', a revolutionary ultra-intuitive flight mode

After the AR.FreeFlight 2.0 pilot application has been loaded onto an iOS or AndroidTM
smartphone or tablet, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 connects to the device via Wi-Fi. After
connection, all the on-board instruments appear on screen with a cockpit view.


Press the take off button briefly and the four brushless motors turn on. The AR.Drone 2.0 takes
off.

Flying is very simple. With your thumbs placed on either side of the screen, a control button
automatically forms beneath:

. Press and hold the left button and the AR.Drone
2.0 follows the movement of the pilot's device: it
moves forward, backwards or sideways when you tilt
the tablet forward, towards you or to the left or
right.
. Slide your finger over the right button, and the
quadricopter rises, descends or rotates right or left.


Thanks to Parrot's patented new 'Absolute Control' mode, the player accesses an even more
intuitive piloting system.

With a 3D magnetometer, the AR.Drone 2.0 knows its precise orientation with respect to the
smartphone, which becomes the reference point. The pilot no longer needs to care about the
orientation of the AR.Drone 2.0's front camera, which will accurately track the smartphone's
motion and tilt.

Experienced players will select 'Relative Flight' mode, the conventional flight mode. This
disables Parrot AR.Drone 2.0's magnetometer. The pilot manages the quadricopter's orientation
with no assistance.
Surprising stability at any altitude

The heart of the AR.Drone 2.0 contains MEMS (microelectromechanical systems).
A 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, a 3-axis magnetometer and a pressure sensor
give the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 surprising stability, complete with:

. 2 ultrasound sensors, which analyze flight altitude up to 6 meters.
New! A pressure sensor completes the device and provides great vertical
stability.
. 4 blades, specially designed for the AR.Drone 2.0, make it possible to carry
out smooth flights.
. A second camera, placed beneath the quadricopter and connected to the central inertial unit,
measures the craft's speed using an image comparison system.

2 hulls made for both types of flight

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 has 2 hulls with specially designed contours. Made of PA66 (a
material used in designing car bumpers), they are light, highly resistant and protect the
quadricopter.

For outdoor flight, the contoured hull, available in three colors
(orange/yellow; orange/green; orange/blue), reduces wind resistance and
preserves the AR.Drone 2.0's handling and stability.

When indoor, a second hull protects the blades
from any impact. The black-and-white cockpit,
underlined with a red stripe, reinforces the quadricopter's mysterious,
thrilling appearance.

Finally, light-emitting diodes (green in front, red in rear), positioned on the landing gear, help the
pilot track the orientation of the AR.Drone 2.0 for easier flying.

An Open Development Platform

In order to expand the use of the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and its compatibility with other
operating systems and to develop new flying games and applications, Parrot is providing
developers and members of the Apple® and AndroidTM communities with a software
development kit.

By logging in at https://projects.ardrone.org and accepting the terms of the license, developers can
access the source code used to fly the AR.Drone 2.0. A wiki and a tutorial also are available. A
forum is available to discuss new developments and share feedback with Parrot engineers.

***

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (included).



Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 will be available for purchase at selected retailers in Q2-2012 in the United States
for $299 MSRP

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Parrot unveils AR.Drone 2.0 with 720p HD camera, autonomous video-recording, we go hands-on