Review: Parrot Anafi Drone

Parrot reenters the consumer drone space with the innovative new Anafi

16 min read
Parrot Anafi drone
The drone folds into a slim rectangle.
Image: Parrot

Parrot was one of the first (if not the absolute first) companies to take a crack at the consumer drone space. The AR Drone came out in 2010 (!), and Parrot followed it up with a solid upgrade in the AR Drone 2.0 a few years later. Since then, we’ve seen the Bebop, some clever flying toys, and had a bunch of fun with the fixed-wing Disco. But at this point, most consumers probably think DJI when they think of camera drones, because of how pervasive Phantoms and Mavics are. It’s not like this caught Parrot by surprise or anything—two years ago, they saw the direction that the market was trending, and started working on a completely new consumer platform designed to be exceptionally easy to use and exceptionally portable, with the ability to produce exceptionally good aerial videos.

Earlier last month, Parrot announced the Anafi, a US $700 consumer camera drone with a unique design and some unique features, coupled with the sort of thoughtful usability that we’ve come to expect from Parrot. We got a pretty good look at the drone in New York City, and have been trying one out over the past weeks. (Disclosure: Parrot covered our expenses to attend the Anafi launch event in NYC.) It’s officially available today, so here’s a detailed review to help you understand whether Anafi is the right drone for you.

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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