Friday, July 24, 2015

Parrot Bebop - this is not the drone you are looking for

CONCLUSION: Many brilliant ideas marred by the most amateurish execution. Since a decent range costs you an extra 400$ and that doesn't solve the battery life, poor construction quality or stability, just do yourself a big favor and buy a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced.

PROS:

  1. Decent recording quality with stable picture and that virtual gimbal is quite clever.
  2. Very very easy to use, just tilt your ipad
  3. Lots of great ideas (in theory) like drone academy.
  4. Light and portable.

CONS:

  1. Very poor battery life (<10 li="" minutes="">
  2. Terrible range, about 100m in the US, so about half that in Europe (we have 4W wifi transmission, you folks have much less)
  3. NO FPV!! Video breaks up too much.
  4. Very unstable with very little wind. GPS doesn't compensate.
  5. After a minute or so, it starts drifting a lot and that drifting intensifies.
  6. Return home doesn't work.
  7. Drone Academy doesn't work, my path, images etc... don't get shared.
  8. Video advertisement in the app !!!
  9. Cheap construction
  10. A fan for the CPU! WHAT?!
Stricken by the drone bug, I decided to hit my neighborhood's BestBuy and get what they have, Parrot Bebop was the highend. The box is surprisingly light so I ask the sales guy how it acts in windy condition and he assures me that "because it's so light, the motors are very powerful to compensate for wind blows", I pause, see if he's joking and decide to just carry on, he tells me that "anyway you can return it within 15 days, as long as all the parts are in the box".
I pay, resist the temptation to launch it in the parking lot and instead head home. Charge one battery while I kick start the other battery that was strapped to the drone's velcro. Installing is awkward but easy enough, the battery though is barely hanging by a thread, literally, and there is a velcro band around it for extra safety, right.
I press the power button and a fan whirls... to cool the cpu.
I put on the styrofoam guards and start the drone after installing the software on the ipad, pair the wifi with the drone, then "Please update the software". So I unpair the drone, pair back the wifi, download the update which jumps from v1.3 to v2.03... I guess best buy got some old stock. Pair the drone back, the software updates the firmware, the drone reboots. After a few minutes it's ready to fly.
I press Take Off.
It takes off and overs about 1m above the carpetted ground and drifts and drifts. The drone drops, the battery had died, no worry, the other one is ready so I swap the batteries and resume the maiden flight. It takes me a minute or so to figure that the round means place your finger here and tilt the thing. Controls are fast but the video is choppy, I'm just a meter away.
The next day I take it out, switch wifi to outdoor, 2.4 GHZ auto, it finds a freer channel, pair and ready to fly. I try to set up the home location but it doesn't work. It's ok, I press the Take Off button on the ipad and let it hover, it drifts and the drifting accelerate so I take over and control it to a clear are and start to increase altitude, it goes up and drifts, i compensate, up and up and up, video is barely working, mostly still images so I fly by eyeball, no FPV for this puppy.
As I see the bebop struggling with the slight wind and because FPV doesn't work and it's too far to see, I return it and press the land button. I do that a few times, swap battery and continue a little more but because the drone seem to lose stability more and more, and by that point I know I want to return it, I don't want to lose it. Oh and there is no code to access its wifi so I wonder if someone can take over... hmmm...
I head back in, download the video from the onboard memory and they look amazing! If only I could have this fluidity and quality while flying, what an amazing experience that would be. But no, not with the Bebop. I try the social functions which seemed very promising and enjoy looking at other people's path, it requires to be paired to the internet wifi, which means that it's disconnected from the drone. I want to add my drone, press the register button and it's looking for my drone! Which isn't connected because you guys need internet.
At that moment I felt like Asterix in the Twelve Tasks and pack it back up in the box.