When you ask someone who knows little about drones to name a drone company, they almost always say Parrot. Parrot has steadily been releasing drones that are more affordable than competitors and offer similar feature sets, flight capabilities and other options. In addition to their toy drones (they call MiniDrones), they recently released the Parrot Bebop Drone, a drone for semi-professionals and aerial photographers. We had the opportunity to use a Bebop drone over the period of three months and with that kind of deep review, we feel can provide an ‘owners’ POV rather than a simple flight test.
The Bebop Drone offers a slew of features that are normally reserved for higher priced drones including 1080p HD video electronically stabilized on 3 axes, GPS system, Return to Home feature, indoor flight bumpers, a navigational computer powered by a dual core CPU, WiFi connectivity, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, pressure sensor, vertical camera and ultrasound sensor. Together, these features combine to make one impressively stocked drone.
The Parrot Bebop is constructed with durable plastic and a reinforced structure made of ABS that is both lightweight and durable. The four propellers are made of a flexible plastic that stop immediately upon a collision, and are spun by brushless outrunner motors. The ABS structure keeps the hardware protected in case of crashes, which we promise you WILL happen. Our Bebop drone experience started quite rocky, with three flights all ending in crashes into trees, walls and fences. Each time, we cringed at the prospect of destroying the drone, but fortunately it never happened. One of the blades did bend pretty severely, but we were able to bend it back to shape. In terms of durability, we give it a solid grade.
The Parrot Bebop Drone is equipped with a 14MP fisheye camera capable of capturing 180-degree field of vision. The camera also shoots in 1080p HD with the ability to control the video up and down, left and right several degrees. The camera is stabalized on all three axes, and the result is rather impressive. While the quality is not nearly as good as a GoPro or other action camera, it certainly stacks up against it. During crashes that’s where you witness the camera losing it’s ‘composure’, but otherwise the pictures are generally crisp, clean and highly enjoyable to view. The vertical camera is okay, but certainly not up to the power and quality of the front facing camera.
Battery life on any drone is a major question mark – the top tier $2000+ drones have a flight time in the 15-30 minute range, while Parrot’s $150 MiniDrone has a flight time of just 8 minutes. the Bebop sits neatly in the middle, with a flight time of about 12-14 minutes depending on your flying style and weather conditions. The batteries do take quite a while to fully charge though, so we would definitely recommend picking up an additional battery or two. Of note, the Bebop box does include a wall charger, and changing the batteries in and out of that device is very easy.
The box contains no real instructions on how to operate the drone, and the FreeFlight 3 app provides some basics but not enough to fully know how to fly it. Instead you need to get online and download a manual before powering up the device. We highly recommend doing so, as the drone has a significnat amount of knowleddge necessary to make it fly properly. Our first flights resulted in a significant number of crashes as we ‘winged it’ without first calibrating and leveling the drone. Think of it like a flight checklist – if you don’t do it, you’re going to have a bad time!
Once we did the pre-flight requirements, updated to the latest firmware and read how to properly fly we were significantly better. That said, the system is not flawless. Without having the Skycontroller (a radio wave controller that enables significantly longer distance flights), we flew using an Android smartphone via WiFi connection. Most of the time if we kept the drone in plain sight, it would perform well, but on occasion it would disconnect and be very difficult to regain a connection. Four times this happened, it hovered in place (once about 300 feet in the air in a public park), but landed on it’s own as the battery was dying, but each time was rather scary. Twice when a connection was lost, the drone just drifted and flew away. Once crashing into a tree and a second time into a building. We were unable to test the ‘Return to Home’ feature, or rather the feature did not activate. Overall, we definitely advise keeping the drone in close range to avoid these panic causing moments.
What’s in the Box?
The box includes the Bebop Drone itself, a set of ABS lightweight bumpers for indoor flights, a second set of propellers, the batteries, the battery charger, a microUSB cable, a propeller replacement tool and charging adapters. Notably exempt was detailed instructions.
Overall, the Parrot Bebop Drone was incredibly fun to fly around. The footage we shot with the drone were fantastic and gave us an entirely different perspective on Toronto’s skyline. The experience takes some time to get used to, but eventually is quite easy to fly around with a smartphone. That said, the system is not without hiccups and losing control of a drone with spinning blades can be quite the panic enducing experience, especially near buildings people and rivers. That said, as long you’re careful, considerate and smart about your flights; you shouldn’t have many problems. For a drone that is about 50% less than the nearest major competitor, and offers a very similar feature set – this is good first time drone purchase.