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Hands-on: Parrot Bebop 2 drone

We just met Parrot’s second serious consumer drone, the Bebop 2, which weighs only 500 grams and promises 25 minutes of continuous flying time.

Parrot’s built a small empire of consumer drones that operate across land, sea and air, but the Bebop line is at the top of the food chain. Last year’s offering was a great all-rounder and not a huge amount has changed for 2015, save for increased flight time courtesy of some bigger, beefier batteries.

To look at the aesthetic of the Bebop 2 is immediately recognisable; the downward facing fish-eye camera at the front of the main body suspended between its four rotors. As with the original Bebop this new drone is adorned with a two-tone paint job of red or white on black with front and rear rotors to match.

Parrot Bebop 2 rotors

Speaking of the rotors, the Bebop 2’s blades are broader, longer and stronger than last year’s model to offer more stable flight (and stable footage as a result) We were shown test footage of a Bebop 2 holding its position in a wind tunnel that pushed to 40 miles per hour before things went awry.

As well as better blades, the camera system has an improved three-axis digital image stabilisation system so that Full HD footage (no jump to 4K just yet) looks as impressive as ever. You can also capture 14-megapixel stills in RAW and fish-eye photos just as with last year’s Bebop.

Parrot Bebop 2 camera

The most impressive new ability, which we saw first hand when in control of the Bebop 2 on Thursday, was its long flight time. Parrot quotes up to 25 minutes from the sizeable new 2700mAh battery, which accounts for most of the drone’s 500 gram weight and physical bulk.

Parrot Skycontroller Black Edition

Intelligently the same battery module also works with the new Skycontroller Black Edition too, extending the standard WiFi range of your iOS or Android device from a few meters to up to two kilometres (unobstructed). As with last year’s Skycontroller it gives you fine grain control over the drone’s movements and camera position and if you fork out for a third-party FPV headset, you can view everything from the drone’s perspective, which is particularly useful considering the extra range the controller affords you.

Bebop 2 FPV goggles 1 Bebop 2 FPV goggles 2

Parrot’s Michael Luke highlighted that even without the new Skycontroller, the Bebop 2 will be another easy-to-use consumer drone, despite the professional-looking footage it captures. The same Freeflight 3 app that’s used with the company’s mini drones is the primary method of control for the Bebop 2, featuring a digital ‘black box’ to log flight data and via a £14 in-app purchase users can even pre-plan and automate flight paths for the drone to follow.

The company has continued to expand on the developer API’s it’d previously released too, with examples from companies like Pix4D using the new drone to create 3D maps of physical terrain, right down to buildings and cars. There’s even an app the turn the Bebop 2 into the ultimate selfie camera too.

Considering how easy we found flying the Bebop 2 and how it appears to be a great way to enter the world of quad-copters, the fast-changing legal landscape around drones has lead Parrot to include regulatory information with its new safety leaflet, detailing the conditions of their usage specific to your region. In the UK that information comes from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Parrot Bebop 2 & Skycontroller Black Edition

There’s no denying that drones are more prevalent than ever before and the experience offered up by the Bebop 2 is both approachable and powerful, but the big barrier for those looking to slot one under the Christmas tree may be price. As with similarly specced drones, the Bebop 2 will retail for £439.99 when it hits store in December and if you want to nab one with the Skycontroller Black Edition, the collective cost weighs in at £759.99, which might be a little too steep to get things off the ground.