Parrot previews wing-shaped Disco drone

Available later this year, the drone can fly fast

Parrot has developed a distinctive wing-shaped drone that swoops through the sky at high speed and can be automatically controlled from a smartphone app.

The Parrot Disco will go on sale later in 2016, and a prototype was unveiled on the sidelines of CES in Las Vegas on Monday.

The drone is about a meter in width and 50 centimeters deep, but a foam body means it weighs about 700 grams. That means it's light enough to be launched by simply throwing it into the air, said Frederic Pirat, a product manager at Parrot.

It's propelled by a single rotor at the rear and can reach speeds of 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour).

Once launched, the drone will automatically climb to a height of 50 meters and circle waiting for instructions from the pilot. The drone is flown from Parrot's SkyController device or a standard RC controller. Alternatively, it can be set to fly a pre-programmed course uploaded through the company's Flight Plan software.

The drone uses a battery of the same capacity as the company's Bebop 2 drone, but because it takes advantage of aerodynamic lift, less energy is required to keep it in the sky, so it can fly for about 45 minutes, Pirat said.

"It's very fun to pilot a wing," he said. "The experience is very different from a quadcopter."

It carries the same high-definition video camera in its nose as that on the recently launched Bebop 2 drone. The camera has software-based image stabilization and can record video while in flight and stream it live to the control app.

The Parrot Disco is the product of two years of research and development, an effort that's not over yet. The company still has work to do before the Disco becomes a commercial product.

For that reason, Parrot couldn't give a launch date or price but said to expect it some time in 2016.

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