Gaming takes flight

Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: February 2013

PARROT A R DRONE 2.0
PRICE:Rs 31,990
SPECS: 1 GHZ 32-BIT ARM CORETEX A8, LINUX 2.6.32, 1 GB DDR2 RAM, 3-AXIS GYROSCOPE, 4 BRUSHLESS INRUNNER MOTOR (14.5 WATT AND 28.500 RPM), 8 MIPS AVR CPU PER MOTOR CONTROLLER, 1000 MAH LIPO RECHARGEABLE BATTERY, 720P 30 FPS FRONT CAMERA, 60FPS QVGA VERTICAL CAMERA VIDEO STREAMING, RECORDING ON USB

There are some gadgets that are all about fun, nothing more. The Parrot A R Drone 2 quadricopter is one such device; a toy for the entire family. We couldn't think of any specific uses for this little chopper, launched in India by flippertech.com, except maybe if you have a flock of sheep to mind in a large ranch somewhere. But for gamers, this drone opens a new world of opportunities.

WHAT IS IT?
The A R Drone 2 is a lightweight radio controlled quadricopter - since it has four rotors instead of one - with two inbuilt cameras for better control and, of course, more fun. The actual drone is a shipshaped device with four legs and their separate propeller. The device weighs about 380 grams with the regular hull and about 50 grams more with indoor hull that protects the blades from walls. While other RC devices come with controllers, this Drone 2 is controlled using apps available for iOS and Android devices. Once you download the AR Freeflight app, you use your phone or tablet to link to the wi-fi network generated by the drone. One dampener here is the fact that the device has no on/off button, and switches on as you plug in the battery. The real showstopper with this drone is the 720p camera in front and another on the bottom. There are also a bunch of sensors under the hull to control the height of the device.

HOW DO YOU FLY?

THE DRONE APPS

AR FREEFLIGHT
This apps lets you control the drone. Plus, it stores all the video shot with the drones two cameras within the app. There are also instructions on how to fly and settings for the drone.
AR RESCUE
Though available only for iOS at the moment, this first-person view game fuses augmented reality with images being beamed by the cameras and a target on the ground.
AR RACE
This app lets you create an obstacle course of your own using objects in the home. Just don’t break any vases in the process.
The piloting of the drone is done entirely from your smartphone or tablet. We suggest the former, as that is more handy. The app is real easy to use and you always get a pilot's-eye view from the front camera. Push the take-off button and use the four-way toggle button to control the height and steering. However, things get a bit tricky as you move the drone to and fro by pressing down the left button and tilting the phone or tablet in the direction you want. This takes some learning and we think you should take the device outdoors only after you have mastered the art of flying this thing. For this, there are some great instruction videos that can be accessed through the app. Even when you have mastered how to fly the drone, we don't think it makes great sense to fly this in between buildings and trees, there are so many obstacles that can bring the drone down. We also found it tougher to control the drone when it is windy. There is also a limited 165-foot range and even beyond the first 10 metres or so you have to depend completely on the camera for controls.

HOW MUCH FUN IS IT?
The fun quotient here is directly proportional to your confidence with the drone and ability to fly it. Once the fear of flying has been conquered - oh yes, you will be scared at first - every time the quadrocopter takes off vertically you will experience an adrenaline rush matched only by real flying. Actually, this is the closes most of us will ever get to a command position in a cockpit. Once you have got the hang of it you can use the many apps available for multiplayer games and even to make an aerial video of your kitchen garden.

WHY WE FELL FOR IT? It is much more than a drone, it is augmented reality at its best.

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