After wowing the crowds at CES 2016, French manufacturer Parrot is finally ready to release its Disco drone. In case you missed the announcements from Parrot earlier this year, the Disco is going to be something of a revelation in the aerial photography industry. You see, Parrot’s latest drone isn’t your standard industry quadcopter. It’s a fixed-wing plane designed to whizz along at up to 50mph for 45 minutes at a time.
Relying on the power of four rotors has so far limited the flight time of even the top level prosumer drones to around half an hour. To combat this, Parrot’s Disco has only one, and this, combined with a weight of only 1.6 pounds, means that flight time can stretch well beyond anything offered in the consumer space at the moment.
The extraordinary weight of the Disco is the result of an EPP (expanded polypropylene) body, reinforced with carbon tubes for extra robustness. The wings have been specially engineered to optimize both stability and speed in flight, allowing the Disco to resist wind speeds of up to 24mph.
The idea of getting a fixed-wing drone off the ground and landing it safely might sound intimidating, but judging from both Parrot’s official communications and the promotional video, it really is just a case of tossing the Disco into the air.
To prepare for takeoff, all you have to do is push the switch located on the upper part of Disco nose, followed by the ‘takeoff/landing’ button on the remote control. Then, just throw it towards the sky like a frisbee. The Disco will take flight and ascend automatically to an altitude of 164ft, flying in a circular pattern until it receives further instructions. To land, all it takes it a press of the ‘takeoff/landing’ button on the remote control. Parrot’s drone will then, using data from the onboard altimeter, ultrasound sensor and vertical camera, descends below 19ft – at which point the engine’s thrust reverses to reduce speed to ensure a smooth landing. Clever.
Once it’s in the air, it seems as though Parrot’s autopilot does most of the heavy lifting in terms of keeping the drone aloft. For detailed controls, pilots will use the Parrot Skycontroller 2, a new and XS-format Wi-Fi MIMO remote control which offers a 1.2-mile range, and has been designed to blur the boundaries between gamepads and RC controllers. The controller also has customizable ‘direct access’ and ‘trigger’ buttons which can be personalized to perform various functions.
For pre-planned flights, the Disco can be used with Parrot’s FreeFlight Pro application. Commands and flight parameters can be set, including speed, altitude, and distance. Parrot cloud is also free and integrated within FreeFlight Pro to store each flight’s data. There is also a full manual mode available for RC enthusiasts.
And what about the camera? The Disco comes with a 1080p Full HD, 14-megapixel wide-angle lens camera, with full stabilization.
One final bit of tech wizardry that comes as part of the Disco package: Parrot is providing each Disco pilot with FPV Cockpitglasses. Plug your smartphone into the headset to stream live in-flight video. According to Parrot, “the FPV experience features perfectly stable images, with no distortion, and follows the Disco’s flight path with a display of a radar and telemetric data, placing the pilot in the cockpit of the drone”.
Parrot’s Disco drone will be available for $1299 on the company’s website in September.