Parrot, a leader in consumer drone tech, came to a New York City hotel last week to show off it’s latest products. Most of what was on offer were upgrades to Parrot’s existing rolling and flying drones, such as the Jumping Race drone that has widened wheels and can reach almost 13 kilometers per hour and jump over 75 centimeters through the air. A nice addition on the flying side is the Airborne Cargo, which has a small patch on top that allows owners to attach what are officially referred to as “toy bricks” by Parrot (read “Lego blocks”) and enhance their drone with their own creations.
But the big draw was the drone zigzagging back and forth in a rooftop pool, and not just because it was a melting-the-tarmac-hot day in New York. This was the Hydrofoil, which as its name indicates, is a boat fitted with plastic hydrofoils projecting beneath its foam hull. As the boat increases its speed, eventually enough lift is generated from water passing over the hydrofoils to lift the hull out of the water. The result is a dramatic reduction in the drag that must be overcome when a hull normally cuts through water, producing a corresponding jump in the speed of the boat (and the drone’s battery life). The Hydrofoil can reach over 9.5 km/h, and, based on my repeated collisions with the narrow walls of this particular pool, is pretty robust.
Cleverly, Parrot did not create a dedicated hydrofoil design: instead the hull is equipped with a cradle into which a flying minidrone can be fitted (the minidrone can be flown completely independently). When the drone is powered up, the cradle flips the drone through 90 degrees, turning the normally vertical lift from its propellers into horizontal motion. The smartphone app used to control the drone handles the switch from the control model used to fly the plane through the air in three dimensions to the two-dimensional mode used to control the Hydrofoil.
Prices for the new drone models range between US $99 and $189.
Video by Kristen Clark.
Stephen Cass is the special projects editor at IEEE Spectrum. He currently helms Spectrum's Hands On column, and is also responsible for interactive projects such as the Top Programming Languages app. He has a bachelor's degree in experimental physics from Trinity College Dublin.