There is nothing worse than getting a FedEx tracking number late on a Thursday, knowing full well that your package will not arrive until Monday. Even as an adult, I'll still obsessively refresh tracking information, even when I know something won't be delivered for days. Still, that didn't stop me from tracking the Parrot AR.Drone all weekend, or getting up and looking out the window when I even thought I might have heard the sound of tires on gravel in the distance all day today. Surely any self respecting geek knows the feeling as they anxiously await their newest techno-toy.

The AR.Drone arrived mere moments ago, and after carefully opening the packaging I was greeted with the wondrous quadricopter that we've been drooling over since we first caught wind of it back at CES in January. Since then we've had a brief hands-on and later discovered that it would sell for $299.99 available for preorder through Brookstone.

In the demos we've been given in the past, we've never actually been able to touch the unit, only fly it around for a few seconds inside of the controlled environment of the Parrot booth at conventions. My first impression as I took it out of the box was just how amazingly light and delicate the whole unit feels. I suppose it makes sense that it's light because it has to fly, but it feels like nothing.

In the box with the unit is a brief quick start guide which explains to first charge the battery, how to install the battery, and the basics of getting the Parrot AR.Drone in the air. Like any impatient man child, I immediately installed the battery, and paired it to my iPhone which was as simple as downloading the free Parrot AR.Drone Free Flight app and connecting to the WiFi network it creates. After that, you launch the app, it connects to the quadricopter, and you're met with a screen that looks like this:

Unfortunately, since I skipped that whole "charge the battery first" step, the AR.Drone only flew for about 45 seconds before it ran out of juice. I'm currently impatiently waiting the light on the charger to flip from red to green, and daylight is fading fast. I hope to have some extensive video of how the unit works, how it is assembled, and flying it in the not too distant future. (All depending on how long it takes to charge of course.)

Following that, I'll be doing a full review of the Parrot AR.Drone, so if you have any questions that you'd like answered or anything you want me to do as I put it through its paces, post a comment on this story.


Update: With the sun about to set I grabbed the battery with as much charge as the charger was able to give me and headed out to shoot some video. The companion app initially showed that I was at around 30% battery, which seemed to last for about 10 minutes of outdoor flight time. Here's a video of my first real flight outdoors with the Parrot AR.Drone:

Something that immediately struck me was how awesome the device is at steadying itself, even with the breeze outside. In the video I am actively trying to get it to lose control, by having it bank in to the wind and the onboard flight controller just automatically leveled the quadricopter without any issues at all. Also, it's really cool how low it will fly to the ground, automatically adjusting its height as it goes up or down hills. Buzzing over the grass at about a foot off the ground was a truly impressive display of how accurately the AR.Drone can hold its altitude. While none of these things are really new revelations from our previous hands-ons at conventions, all of those were always indoors in a very small controlled environment with no winds at all. A part of me was expecting everything to fall apart once the AR.Drone got outside of the calm 10x10 Parrot tent on the show floor... But it performed flawlessly.

The strangest part about flying the AR.Drone is trusting the iPhone display over just watching it fly through the air and controlling it like a normal RC helicopter. This is even more disorienting when you notice that you can see yourself in the image. The AR.Drone is always controlled from its viewpoint, creating a brain-bending situation where you can see the device with your eyes, you in the devices eyes, and everything is backwards as you're facing it.

At demos in the past, controlling the AR.Drone seemed really easy, and it is when you're limited by about 10 feet in any direction. When you actually get outdoors, and have tons of obstacles to fly around, piloting the device actually seems to take a bit of skill-- Even with all the automated flight systems it has.

Just as I was getting good, I was met with this yet again:

So far I'd really advise anyone who already had one of these preordered to buy as many extra batteries as you feel comfortable purchasing. Flying the AR.Drone is really cool, but having it run out of battery, then sitting and waiting for the battery to charge sucks just as much as it did when I was a kid waiting for the NiCD batteries of my various RC cards to juice back up before I could play again.

  • DH

    Seems like such a cool gadget, but at that price who can realistically afford to buy it?

    • Eli Hodapp

      Probably the same people who can afford a $300 cell phone and two years of $100/mo cell service. ;)

      • vulture3

        Ba-zingggggg

      • 1337brian

        Not true, While I'll easily get a worthwhile investment out of a $300 cell phone (I use it all day everyday). This for me is more of a spontaneous purchase, and something I couldn't just afford on a whim... But I am super jealous and if I had the spare cash it would be something I would totally get...

      • Yrogerg212

        Hmm... I use my iPhone everyday. Would I use this everyday? I mean, realistically?

      • Metalbear

        I have to agree with 1337Brian. Although the gadget seems cool, the purchase seems a little bit of a stretch for the common consumer. Even an expensive cell-phone user. If you can afford a cell phone like the iPhone, would you be able to afford a $300 drone and tons of batteries?

        I'd still like to 'round-house kick you Hodapp, and steal this new toy of yours. ;P

      • Eli Hodapp

        My point was that for a lot of people spending $300 is not that far fetched for a cool toy. RC helicopters and airplanes have their own market, and the AR.Drone is priced competitively to compete in it.

      • Pauly

        I agree with Eli Hodapp; there are a lot of hobbies that have an healthy investment. Not everything will be priced cheap for the casual consumer.

        Eli Hodapp example of the RC planes and helicopters is a good one. How many times have you seen one that thought "that's be cool to own" but didn't care enough to actually spend that kind of money? Same with other hobbies (cool model railways, ultralights, scuba driving). This is just catching our eye because of the iphone connection, but it's not meant to be your regular game and won't be priced accordingly.

        You might think it's awesome, but if you aren't interested enough to spend the money, then this isn't something that is marketed to you.

    • Adams Immersive

      R/C toys that do far less often cost far MORE than $300. If you think this is a hobby nobody is willing to spend money on, do a search on Amazon to see how much more expensive these things get!

      I might wait and see if a V2 is on the way, but I do want one, and people DO spend $300 on pure entertainment sometimes. Count me in :)

      • DH

        Don't think it's that simple as it's a hobby that applies to iPhone users. I bought my iPhone 4 for £600 without a contract but I would attach a whole lot more value to it than I would to a nifty gadget like this which costs nearly half the price!

        I'd love one but I will never pay that for it and I imagine most iPhone users that have just felt the pinch of buying an iPhone will not go out and buy something which won't take much to break and short of peeking through top floor bedroom windows, has very few uses!

        .... Hmm on second thoughts :p

  • Jared Nelson

    Can it support the weight of a full grown cat?

    • NoReturn

      lol. What do you have in mind?

      • Bethany

        Can't speak for Jared Nelson but my first thought when I saw this was, "Wouldn't that drive my cats INSANE?"

        One would probably flee from it and the other would probably try to kill it. I don't have $300 to spend on messing with my cats' minds, but this kind of makes me wish I did.

        Maybe there needs to be an augmented-reality "Fight the giant furry boss monster" game...

    • Franco

      Question of the month :)

  • Fafner

    Can I try when you're done?

    The thing I'd like to know is how far away can it get from you before it loses signal?

    • ben

      this is something i'd like to know too,i'm waiting for v2 and it's not reammy price that matters.(i bought my iphone for around 1000$,700€ off contract in belgium.)
      but function.i'd like to see the drone fly up to 100 meters within contact and some extra stuff : better camera,the ability to speak via the mic,to store something of extra weight in it for instance 200 grams,(optional)also a little screen so you can talk with that person (facetime),... i know,it is a bit unrealistic but think off the future and imagine the possibilities.if they would put for instance a receiver( 2g,3g etc) in it,the thing could fly 10 miles without loosing contact.battery technologies are evolving.you could (optional) buy a ("super") battery that lasts for 2 hours instead of just 30 minutes.

      i hope this will come true one day.and maybe you pay the price of 500$ - 1000$ but it would just be super awesome. ,-)

    • TonyRockyHorror

      I would imagine that it would have to remain within range of the wifi network the app on the iPhone creates.

  • jb

    Yeah, how much weight could it lift?

  • 1337brian

    OMG I NEED MORE! CHARGE IT ALREADY!!!

  • Señor Peanut

    mine comes next wednesday!!!!! I WANT IT NOW!!!!

  • Jim Jones

    Can you get it now at Brookstone? I think I read it will be in Brookstone stores. If so, I'm heading to my local mall to tonight to pick one up. I wanto buy it locally rather than order it online so I can try it out. If it's not up to expectations then I can return it and not have thrown out $300. If it's great then I keep it...

    • Jim Jones

      I just calle dmy local Brookstone. The girl who answered said Brookstone has ordered 50k and have 30k preordered already. She didn't have an in store date and suggested if I want one to order online.

  • Wegmans

    I just wanted to say that I'm jealous of you.
    Best,
    Wegmans

  • stlredbird

    You lucky SOB.

  • Mr. Saturn

    HaHaha this is hilarious you saw this on CES?! That is so hilarious because the first time I saw this was on a video from CollegeHumor!! Ahh sorry I just thought it was really funny because I had no idea it was real...psh gotta love Collegehumor. Anyways you're so lucky...ROCK ON TOUCH ARCADE!!

  • vulture3

    Does it have x-ray vision?

    • Shooks

      No but it does have infrared and nightvision...

      • vulture3

        so hott...

      • Awalt808

        does it really have night vision. that would be so hot

  • red12355

    How loud is it?

  • http://digg.com WhoCares

    What a stupid review. It's like doing a car review without driving the car because you didn't put gas in it. derrrrr

    • MidianGTX

      It's not a review, genius. Try reading the whole article.

  • JCKarlo

    Is the video on the iphone screen laggy/choppy? What factors can diminish or improve the stream quality?

  • dfsdave

    AAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!

    Waiting for my tracking number.I ordered it on the first day...

  • JRDobbs

    What's with the skull on the box ... is this thing equipped with tiny cute li'l' weapons?

    • Ultimate Zohan

      lol ZOHAN APPROVED COMMENT.

  • george

    Will it blend!

  • Peter

    I am also curious how much weight it can life. I am thinking about attaching a camera....

    • Peter

      weight it can lift not life ;) Thanks!

      • shooks

        It already has a camera on it... but if you mean to record footage (if the application doesn't do that) then you probably would need the lightest camera ever made or something close to that... Im not really sure though...

    • ori

      it probably cant carry a camera but you could get the keychain camera on ebay the camera weighs like 1/10 of a pound

  • mashom

    the thing is that you have iphone 4 :D else there is many drones :)

  • Noah

    The video on the iPhone 4 seemed choppy... which is unfortunate :/

  • Walter

    10ft range? Pass.

    I realize there are some limits with the technology, but why just not use the money to save up for a model airplane or something with a much larger range. It's a waste of $300.

    • Xet

      I think he s talking about previous INDOOR demonstrations.
      I just read that the range should vary between 20 meters (due to other Wi-Fi networks) and 50 meters in clear area. (~ 65 - 165 feet).

  • mchart

    I think this thing would be a lot cooler if it had an IR transmitter/receiver so you could battle other people with one.

    • http://www.runningwithscissorsgame.com Chris

      I don't think you understand how powerful this thing is.. you could easily track someone else's with a simple color snap-on, and video processing of the incoming frames of video data.

  • Jack

    Waste of money. Just buy the real heli/plane remote control if you want, better control.

    • http://www.runningwithscissorsgame.com Chris

      but u can do AR video stuffs while panning around your real space room.. that's the game idea of this.

  • http://www.runningwithscissorsgame.com Chris

    what I wonder is can you send the video/control stream to two seperate devices..

  • Kevin

    Will it fly low enough to cut my grass?

    • Achy

      LOL. That would be a great toy.

  • Q

    Looks kind of boring....or maybe Eli is just not that exciting.

  • San D

    Well, people whine when an app is priced $9.99 (even if that app is GTA), but they will buy just a toy (at least without those grass-cutting attachments you can innovate or unless you place your cat over it, it's nothing more than a toy) for $299.99. Amazing mentality!

  • sniperboy

    how noisy is it?

    how high will you rate it for stalking purposes?

    • ori

      probably a high piched humming sound but still not to noisy

  • http://acceleroto.com Bryan Duke

    I NEEEEED one of these. It looked great at CES, but I wondered how well it'd work in the real world. Thanks for the great show!

  • benj

    wants.

  • MrMuesli

    Cool stuff, but the iPhone vid does look very choppy. Is it really like that?

    • ori

      yes but better than nothing

  • Vovin

    Sheesh... voyeurism and internet spy video sites are taken to a whole new level.
    Perfect toy for perverts.

    • Thisisnotmyrealname

      Lol. I was thinking the same thing. I wonder how long it'll take for someone to hack it with a night vision mod.

      • shooks

        LoL...

  • Alex

    But if it possible to send it to moscow?... Or mayby somebody can buy and send it to me?...

  • Sam

    You americans are lucky. In England it costs £300! Also, you have to pay for different covers for the copter such as outdoor one and the foam one with. Circles.

  • Bryan

    How high can this thing fly? I was thinking of having it help me do inspections of my gutters on my house that is 3 stories off the backside. Can it fly over 30 feet in the air?

    • http://None MystikSun

      Yeah, someone commented that it can fly to about 100 feet, just that there's no autopilot.

  • http://iphone4ever.eu tobiCOM

    Looks like great fun - controlling the Drone with the iPhone 4

  • Chris K.

    Ok, nobody else asked (in 60 comments, sheesh folks), how rugged do you feel this thing is? If it's so light, I'd be worried you'd hit a tree and it'd fall apart or get bent. Does it seem to be able to absorb any reasonable impact? (From it's own movement running it into a stationary object, clearly smacking into a moving car or getting crushed by a kid's foot isn't what I plan on doing...)

  • Cory

    Can the iphone record the video feed?

    • ori

      no

  • Jay

    i bought one of these in the uk, and to be honest it is rubbish, after less than a week of owning one it has snapped the connection between body and propellor, and the motor on one propellor has overheated melting the connection causing the motor to slip and munch through one of the screws destroying itself, to be honest i expected far more from parrot.

    • Jay

      also the helicopter can fly about 100 feet high, but there is no auto-pilot at that height

  • Jim Jones

    One thing that I'd love to know is if you can take a photo. It's controlled by the iPhone. Does the settings have a button/option to take a photo while in flight? I've always wanted to take aerial photos of my house and surrounding areas. The iPhone video quality doesn't look all that great but a "snapshot" option would be fun!

    • ori

      you can! press the home and lock button at the same time dummy

  • Alex

    Hey can I buy it in moscow????

  • Joe

    What is the range of the AR.Drone?
    The range of the AR.Drone depends on the environment in which it is being used: the range will be greater if the AR.Drone is used in a wide-open space with few Wi-Fi waves. For information, the average range is 50 meters / 160 feet.

  • Caleo

    These work on wifi - wonder how long it'll take someone to rig up a system to automatically deploy & control those things when a motion sensor is tripped as part of a security/surveillance system.

  • Zurie

    If you really want to get into self leveling R/C helicopters, I'd start with a Blade CX.. (google it) they are around 199 bucks and blow this thing out of the water in speed and control. I personally have a T-Rex 450 v2 and have put about 3,000 dollars into parts and equipment for it, but thats the price you pay when you want something that can fly 30 - 40 mph and flip upside down and hover 2 feet off the ground inverted. As far as the build quality of a AR Parrot.. its foam, and a cheap engine and motor. they have more expensive versions of the parrot drone in the real RC world.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLMoKYmFsLY

  • http://synapticnulship.com/blog Samuel H. Kenyon

    "The strangest part about flying the AR.Drone is trusting the iPhone display over just watching it fly through the air and controlling it like a normal RC helicopter. This is even more disorienting when you notice that you can see yourself in the image. The AR.Drone is always controlled from its viewpoint, creating a brain-bending situation where you can see the device with your eyes, you in the devices eyes, and everything is backwards as you're facing it."

    Welcome to telepresence. I think we're entering an era where some really strange experiences will be enabled by remotely operated vehicles/robots. I recently posted an article about seeing oneself in the camera of a teleop vehicle: http://www.science20.com/eye_brainstorm/following_myself_robots

  • http://www.revolutionaryconcepts.net Revolutionary Concepts

    Awesome! Can't help wonder though, how long till we see the first app/site where you can vote to send a drone on spy missions, with what it films being streamed live? A bit like Chatroulette- all good fun till someone loses their willy to a propellor blade.

  • Crunc

    This looks pretty awesome. I'm sure there are better self level R/C craft, but this one has a video game and presumably can record your flight on the iPhone. Or at least I hope it does that. Does it? I'm anxious for the full review. If it's good I'll probably put it on my wish list for xmas.

  • Omni

    I'll be buying this as soon as they have android support. Not before.

  • Yaro Kasear

    Too bad this is only for iPhone/iPod Touch. It's sell a lot better and a lot more if it had Android support as well, especially since Android has rocketed past iPhone/iPod Touch in the mobile market some time ago.

    And Android easily has the technology to do it.

    Please, please, someone tell me the developers aren't just wasting this product on Apple.

    • ori

      iphone rocketed past again though

  • iwantadrone

    how far will this thing fly away from you before you are out of range

  • http://www.captnluke.com CaptnLuke

    WOW!!!

    This is going on my xmas wish list... a little tooo pricey for me write now... maybe I could make an order form and.....

    I will get it!!!

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    Just came and read, this is wow! I was seek from many blogs, but here is the best, I love it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VTONLKNZ3PVP4AZJN646CQLKH4 Maloch

    You got further than I did. I got a screen that said it would update. It seemed to do this, but it's been installing for hours now, with no end in sight. Like a lot of Christmas toys, it lacks clear directions, does not prepare you for new installations, and right now, just does not work. I think it's a scam.

  • Anonymous

    Just received this for Christmas... My sister had thoughtfully pre charged the battery, plus a second battery she had though to purchase for me, so I was read to go. After installing the free app, and connecting the batteries, I was up in the air in a matter of minutes. Very impressive flying. As I fly rc helis anyway (Align Trex 500) I was instantly familiar with the controls. The batteries seemed to last a good amount of time. The camera, live feed, is very impressive, with no vibrations or jelly affect that has plagued me with any video footage I have tried to capture on my trex. All in all, a very impressive piece of kit!!!