Parrot’s New Bebop Quadcopter Brings Entertainment to Drone Conference

By Valerie Insinna

ORLANDO — In the exhibit hall of the nation’s biggest unmanned systems conference, industry executives crowded around a stage where Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” blasts from the speakers. Several tiny, 400-gram quadcopters flew in formation, buzzing in and out of various patterns like a choreographed dance routine.

The new Bebop drone — developed by Parrot, a French wireless technology company  — has been generating buzz all week at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference and exhibition.

While most of the unmanned aerial systems in the room are built either for military use or for commercial industries such as agriculture, the Bebop is purely meant for recreation. Parrot markets the Bebop as a toy, with applications such as taking video during vacation, said Vanessa Loury, director of public relations.

"It's very light; it's very safe when compared with larger drones," she said.

The product is equipped with a 14 megapixel fisheye camera and can be controlled by Android or Apple devices, she said. Users can take up to 8 gigabytes of photos and video, steering the drone with the touchpad on their tablet or smartphone.

The Bebop flies over a WiFi connection that it generates itself. It has a range of about 980 feet, but its battery will only keep it in the air for about 12 minutes, according to company information.

One of the key features of the Bebop is the “three-axis stabilization” — a series of algorithms that keep the camera focused on the same point and at the same angle, even if the drone flips 90 degrees, Loury said.

“You can take pictures and do videos and your image will remain stable even if the drone is shaken due to the wind,” she said.

The Bebop will likely be available to purchase by the end of the year, Loury said. She would not comment on the price.

The Bebop can connect to two other devices. The first — the Parrot-produced Skycontroller — is a docking station where a user can plug in a tablet and use two joysticks to more precisely maneuver the system, she said. The Skycontroller also contains additional WiFi that extends the Bebop’s range to about 1.2 miles.

When connected to the Skycontroller, the Bebop can also plug in to the Oculus Rift — a virtual reality headset that is not yet commercially available but recently was purchased by Facebook, she said. A user wearing the Oculus can change the view of the camera simply by moving his or her head. 

Topics: Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles

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