Best-selling drone gets augmented reality enhancement

Since it was introduced in 2010, the AR.Drone has been a success among hobbyists, hackers, engineering students, drone journalists, and aspiring UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) operators. Produced by the French wireless products manufacturer Parrot, this camera-enabled quadrotor can be controlled over WiFi via iOS or Android-enabled phones and tablets.

Since launch, it has sold over 300,000 units. That’s ten times the number of UAS that the FAA anticipated would by flying in American airspace… by 2020.

A selling point of the RC aircraft from the beginning has been augmented reality dogfights with other AR.Drones, facilitated by on-board image recognition. Parrot recently unveiled another addition to the drone’s list of AR abilities — a GPS receiver.

Parrot’s GPS accessory permits AR.Drone users to collect detailed flight data, visualize the location of the drone in 3D, and share that data with a community of users.

But perhaps most importantly, it’s compatible with ground control software. Meaning the AR.Drone will now have the ability to fly autonomously, along a specified route of GPS coordinates.

The AR.Drone has many limitations. It’s not terribly powerful, and is easily tossed around in light winds. While it has an HD camera, the camera has zero degrees of freedom and cannot pan, tilt, or zoom. The stock battery is fairly limited in terms of flight time.

More importantly, it did not have any sort of GPS guidance, which was fairly common on DIY-type drones at the same price point. That means Parrot is stepping up their game.