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Parrot Drone BeBop 2 Is Like a “Flying Image Processor”

The only moving parts in the Parrot Drone BeBop 2 are the propellers

3 min read
parrot drone bebop 2
Photo: Parrot

If you’re already drone crazy, here’s what you probably want to know about the latest Parrot drone, the BeBop 2, introduced today in San Francisco. The 500-gram drone has a 2-kilometer range, a 25-minute battery life (twice as long as its predecessor), a top horizontal speed of 60 kilometers per hour, and can resist headwinds up to 39 miles per hour. The pilotless aircraft, which can operate in first-person view mode, will sell for US $500 when it comes out on 14 December.

If you’re interested in the engineering of this gadget, you might want to know that it includes: a vertical camera that watches the ground to help in stabilization; an ultrasound sensor that measures altitude up to 16 feet (about 5 meters) and a pressure sensor for tracking altitude beyond that; a 3-axis gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer, and a GPS chipset; a graphics processor, and 8 gigabytes of flash memory. Its sensors operate at 1 kilohertz to feed the image stabilization’s software. The BeBop 2’s only moving parts are its propellers.

If you’ve never flown a drone solo before, like me, you certainly would want to know that the learning curve is about 45 seconds, it’s really, really hard to hurt someone because it’s small, light, and has built-in safety features (during my first 45 seconds at the controls those indeed came into play). Once you figure out how to point the gadget towards something you want to photograph you immediately see how having a camera drone could be a lot of fun.

parrot drone CEOParrot CEO Henri Seydoux unveils the Parrot Bebop 2Photo: Tekla Perry

Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux, unveiling the new drone, touted all of its features, including aerial performance, battery life, and wifi range. But, he said, “The most important feature is the camera; [consumer] drones are for taking pictures you can put on YouTube or Facebook. Bebop 2 is built around a camera; everything done to stabilize the image is through image processing. It’s a flying image processing device.”

Seydoux also stressed the drone’s size and weight: “Doing everything through software makes it lighter,” he said. “If it falls down, less opportunity to break itself.” And in a collision, “It doesn’t hurt if it hits someone.” (It also avoids causing injury with a feature that automatically stops all the propellers if one is touched.)

parrot drone bebop 2Parrot’s new Bebop 2Photo: Tekla Perry

In hands-on testing of three or four drones by journalists who were drone novices—in an indoor ballroom where structural pillars regularly interrupted open space, there were a multitude of crashes into windows and walls. None of the collisions disabled any of the drones. After my first minute, during which I somehow didn’t understand that I could stop the drone by lifting my finger from the touchpad and flew it full speed into a cluster of Parrot staff members and journalists (a staff member calmly reached out and snatched it just before impact), I found it easy and fun to fly. Adding to the fun was the ability to get whatever camera view I wanted on the touchscreen. Definitely a user-friendly gizmo.

Think of it as a pigeon, Seydoux suggested. “A small bird,” he said. “has nearly the same capabilities of very large bird. A pigeon can travel hundreds of kilometers and know exactly where it is; it is as good for traveling as a goose.”

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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