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Parrot’s MiniDrones bring free-flying and WiFi driving fun indoors

Famous for the free-flying AR Drone quadcopter, Parrot has delivered its Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo MiniDrones to the UK for in-home fun.

The smartphone-controlled MiniDrones were first unveiled at CES in January, and give Parrot a drone range from £90 toys up to the forthcoming professional Bebop model, expected to cost up to £1,000.

The Rolling Spider is an ultra-compact wheeled quadcopter, while the Jumping Sumo is a nippy two-wheeled rover which can jump up to 80cm into the air. Watch them in our video from CES 2014 below.

The palm-sized £90 Rolling Spider weighs just 55g without its giant 10g wheels, which also double as a safety cage, and practiced pilots can send it rolling around the floor, up walls and across ceilings as well as flying.

It takes off automatically to a preset hover height, or can take flight when thrown into the air, with the underside VGA navigation camera also capable of taking snapshots to its 1GB of memory.

With three-axis stabilisation, the Rolling Spider is automatically levelled in flight but can also perform flips and rolls in mid-air.

With no experience, we were able to fly the Rolling Spider around Parrot’s launch event last night with only a couple of crashes, and were relieved to find it’s easy to put back together, with a safety mode that shuts down the rotors when they encounter an obstacle like a Parrot PR person.

The Parrot Rolling Spider is an ultra-compact super-stable drone
The Parrot Rolling Spider is an ultra-compact super-stable drone

The Jumping Sumo can zip around at up to 4.5mph and perform instant 90-degree and 180-degree turns, but its real talent is a spring-loaded tail that can send it on long jumps or up 80cm high.

Priced £140, it can be programmed to follow a preset route, and has a front-facing VGA camera which can be used to drive immersively and take photos or video to a USB stick.

Parrot claims it’s also an emotional robot, with eyes glowing green when it’s ready to play and red when something’s wrong, making noises when it’s in an uncomfortable position, and reacting affectionately when it’s patted or stroked.

Our test-drive found the experience so immersive we didn’t even notice that everyone else had walked off to have fun somewhere else while we ignored them.

Both MiniDrones use the same 550mAh battery, providing up to eight minutes flight time for the Rolling Spider and up to 20 minutes driving for the Jumping Sumo, and come with stickers to customise your look.

They also use Parrot’s standard FreeFlight 3 app for Android and iOS, which is coming to Windows 8.1 (and Windows Phone 8.1) in September – the same app used for the AR Drone and Bebop.

However, the Rolling Spider is controlled via Bluetooth Smart with a 20m line-of-sight range, while the Jumping Sumo uses WiFi Direct on 2.4GHz or 5GHz.

 

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