Parrot AR.Drone: now flying in Australia

Yes, you can now buy the Parrot AR.Drone in Australia

Better known for its wireless mobile phone accessories, French company Parrot today announced the launch of the AR.Drone in Australia. The AR.Drone is a "quadricopter" that is controlled via an app specially designed for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

See photos of the Parrot AR.Drone in action.

Described by Parrot as a "flying video game", the AR.Drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that uses Wi-Fi technology to connect to an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch where it can be piloted using augmented reality. The Parrot AR.Drone generates its own Wi-Fi network on-board, with no need for an Internet connection or wireless router to play.

The AR.Drone weighs less than 500 grams and can fly up to 18 kilometres per hour. It can be controlled from up to 50 metres away. It features two built-in cameras that stream live video; the front-facing camera displays what the AR.Drone is seeing in front of it, and the bottom facing camera shows what is below it.

The flight of the AR.Drone is controlled by holding a virtual joystick in the app and tilting the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch from side to side using the gyroscope on the device. Users can switch between cameras using the AR.Drone app, though the camera can't take still photos or record video.

Parrot claims the AR.Drone's four propellers with brushless motors mean the unit has much greater manoeuvrability and stability during piloting than regular remote control helicopters.

"The fact that this is a quadricopter and has four propellers makes it a lot easier to handle and more stable, and it is also resistant to wind", said Cristina Sanz Ortiz, chief marketing officer at Parrot.

The body of the AR.Drone is constructed from carbon fibre and "high resistance" plastic, and it has an accelerometer, two gyrometers and an ultrasound sensor. Parrot claims the AR.Drone is usable outdoors with winds up to 16kmph, while its battery lasts for up to 12 minutes of flying time before needing a 90 minute recharge.

The Linux-based software of the Parrot AR.Drone is open source. Parrot has provided a software development kit (SDK) on its Web site.

The Parrot AR.Drone is available in Australia from 30 November for $349, and will be sold exclusively through Telstra and Fone Zone stores.

Check out a video of the AR.Drone in action from the Australian media launch:

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Ross Catanzariti

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