The Parrot Bebop drone flies well, but like most drones, not for quite long enough.
Parrot Bebop Drone: On the plus side
You really need to stand out in the drone space right now, and Parrot’s Bebop drone does that in a couple of different ways. It’s equipped with a 1080p capable 14MP fisheye style camera embedded in its nose, capable of recording very smooth video in the right conditions. There’s no messing around with storage cards on the Bebop drone, which comes with 8GB of onboard storage.
Like most drones, connecting to the Parrot Bebop is performed via local Wi-Fi, which in the Bebop’s case comes in 802.11AC flavour in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, which gives it solid scope for retaining connectivity to a mobile controller device, although there’s not that many that come with 802.11AC specifically just yet.
The other interesting aspect to the Parrot Bebop’s control scheme is that you’ve got a choice of two of them. Like other Parrot Drones, you can use the Free Flight 3 app for direct control via touchscreen, or if you’re particularly keen, you can pony up an additional $600 for Parrot’s “Sky Controller”, a fully physical controller with space for a tablet to sit. The Sky Controller looks nifty, but Parrot didn’t send me one to review, so I can’t really comment on how well or poorly it works.
The heaviest part of any drone is always going to be the battery, and the Parrot Bebop is no exception. One nice factor here is that the battery connects via a pullout cable which is secure but easy to remove, making switching batteries on the go a simple experience.
There’s something that’s just plain fun about flying drones. Yes, you can make arguments about using them for video shooting or surveillance purposes, but not at this price, point, and not without quite a lot of certification from CASA; it’s worthwhile noting that the Australian model comes with a small legal sheet stating exactly where you are and aren’t allowed to use drones like the Parrot Bebop. Take note of the rules, drone users!
Parrot Bebop Drone: On the minus side
Like most drones, there’s a simple limitation to the amount of silly fun you can have with the Parrot Bebop, and that’s in terms of battery life. Parrot rates the battery — you get two in the box — for the Parrot Bebop as being good for up to twelve minutes of flight time. I’d say that’s a little generous, with the Bebop struggling to get beyond ten minutes, especially if it’s struggling in harder winds. There’s no real easy solution to this problem, because the more battery capacity you put onto a drone, the less distance and time you’ll be able to fly it anyway as it keeps its batteries in the air.
When I reviewed the tiny little Parrot Rolling Spider drone, I noted that it struggled with breezes and stability, and sadly there was some of this with the Parrot Bebop as well. While shooting video of the Bebop there was a stiff breeze that would challenge most drones, but the combination of quite touch-sensitive controls and wind makes for a rather unstable flying experience. There’s some fun there in watching it crash, until you remember how much it costs.
Parrot Bebop Drone: Pricing
The Parrot Bebop drone sits in a midpoint in terms of its pricing. The drone itself will set you back $699.95, and if you want the physical controller to go along with it, that’ll cost you a grand total of $1299.95.
Parrot Bebop Drone: Fat Duck Verdict
Consumer drones are still ultimately big toys with tech inbuilt, and the Parrot Bebop is no different in any real way. It struggles more with wind than I’d like, but the bigger issue is that price point.
If you just want a simple thing to muck around with, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives, especially if you want a physical controller. If you want something more serious, adding the Sky Controller to the Parrot Bebop pushes it into a price bracket where the more serious contenders do indeed start to play, and that makes the Parrot Bebop tough to recommend.