Remote-controlled quadricopters are nothing new. Your friendly neighborhood amateur spies have already been using them to survey the neighborhood (they’re ideal for reconnaissance since they’re very stable) for their own personal amusement. The Parrot AR Drone, however, sets itself apart by adding a software-based twist that can make flying the thing a totally different experience.
Intended to be controlled over Wi-Fi, you maneuver the unmanned aerial vehicle directly from your iPhone or iPod Touch. Just like an ordinary flight control game, you tilt your device to steer the four-pronged chopper, with its altitude managed via touch control.
The Parrot AR Drone comes with two cameras onboard: one to give you a cockpit view of everything it sees; the other (which faces downward) to help measure speed and compensate for turbulence. Losing Wi-Fi signal activates the autopilot, which automatically lands the thing if you don’t reconnect within a minute.
Where’s the twist, you ask? Parrot is releasing an AR Drone SDK, which will allow developers to build applications around the remote-controlled aircraft. That means there’s a huge potential here for games that will let you pit drones against each other (even though your opponent lives on the other side of the world) or have it flying while battling virtual AI enemies, among other creative applications.
Parrot claims they used military-spec technology in the AR Drone, although they caution against using it under windy conditions (best for indoors or very light winds, at most). Honestly, that doesn’t matter – people will likely be geeking out on these inside their houses anyway, especially when the games are released.