Flight times are a critical feature for serious hobbyists. The longer a drone can stay aloft on a single charge, the more it can do.
On Tuesday, Parrot introduced Bebop 2, an update to its most advanced drone that doubles its flight time from 12 minutes to 25 minutes. The Bebop 2 will be Parrot’s premier drone going into the all-important holiday season.
Although Parrot’s AR.Drone was the first quadcopter for mainstream U.S. consumers, serious hobbyists have since started to look to other companies. Parrot’s response was the Bebop, a more-advanced quadcopter suitable for serious hobbyists, which first went on sale earlier this year.
Its successor, the Bebop 2, which goes on sale Dec. 14, includes a larger battery and new software features. Like its predecessor, it includes a camera built into its nose that is capable of capturing and streaming 1080p video.
Bebop 2 can hit a top speed of 36 kilometers per hour, according to the company.
However, the focus remains on pick-up-and-fly simplicity, not performance or features for enterprise use. “Bebop 2 is a true consumer product,” Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux told Fortune.
As part of the focus on “leisure” use, the $550 Bebop 2 is designed to handle crashes well. Its soft plastic propellers won’t break skin because they stop spinning as soon as they come in contact with anything from body parts to tree branches, they company said.
The Bebop 2 is heavier than the first Bebop, because of a larger battery. It enables the quadcopter to achieve 25 minutes of flying time, which is slightly longer than the 23 minutes by the DJI’s rival Phantom 3. Another new feature is that the wide-angle camera built into the drone stabilizes its images to reduce shaking.
Other drones achieve that through specialized hardware that keep their cameras level. But the Bebop 2 does its image stabilization digitally, using the drone’s on-board processor and algorithms to reduce camera shake.
Like last year’s version, users have two main options for controlling the Parrot Bebop 2. Parrot’s FreeFlight app for iPhones and Android phones is free and designed for complete novices to pick up and use. It also offers powerful controls over many of the drone’s settings, including propeller rotation speed and camera options like exposure. The Bebop 2 is compatible with Flight Plan, a new feature introduced last month that lets users create their own automated flight plan and program waypoints for the drone to fly over.
The other way to control the Bebop 2 is with the optional Parrot Skycontroller, which adds $250 to the suggested retail price. The Skycontroller is a large accessory, nearly as big as the Bebop itself, that includes a physical joysticks and other controls. In addition to providing physical controls, it extends the range users can control the drone from up to over a mile.
The other key to the Skycontroller is that it is a requirement for using Bebop 2’s first-person-view. Pilots can feel like they’re flying in the drone’s cockpit by getting a video stream from in-flight sent to a special set of virtual reality goggles, which plug into the Skycontroller with a HDMI cord. First-person-viewing is a growing focus for for drone hobbyists. However, the Bebop 2 isn’t designed to race, which is usually why enthusiasts use first-person view.
This holiday season, drones could be a popular big-ticket gift. The FAA expects 1 million drones to be sold by the end of the year. The Bebop 2 is positioning itself in the middle of that market—more expensive than toys, but not quite as expensive as other quadcopters that require steeper learning curves to pilot and additional capabilities. Parrot is hoping its Bebop 2 is the drone of choice under Christmas trees this year.
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