Video: Test Flying Parrot's Bebop Drone

Support for VR goggles and panoramic lens makes piloting easy

2 min read
Video: Test Flying Parrot's Bebop Drone
Photo: IEEE Spectrum

With the release of the Parrot’s Bebop drone coming December 1st, IEEE Spectrum took the opportunity to take one for a test flight at an event in New York City.  As we’ve previously reported, the Bebop has a number of advanced features, but by far the most fun is the support for first person video flying.

A fish-eye lens on the front of the US $500 Bebop allows pilots to look in any direction in a 180-degree field of view, much as a helicopter pilot can look around her without having to rotate or tilt her aircraft. The video can be viewed and the drone controlled using a smartphone or tablet interface as with many of Parrot’s earlier drones, but Parrot also offers a dedicated Skycontroller that attaches to a full size tablet (the Skycontroller is bundled with a BeBop in an $800 package). The antenna on the front of the Skycontroller allows a Bebop to be controlled out to a range of about 1.5 kilometers.

In addition, VR glasses can be plugged into the Skycontroller to provide an immersive experience of flying. Parrot says it is working on some compatibility issues with the latest developers version of the Oculus Rift, but once ironed out, the Rift will allow users to look around the drone’s field of view by simply turning their head.

As I have a terrible habit of smashing up drones at Parrot’s press events, going all the way back to the original AR Drone’s debut at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I had some trepidations about flying the Bebop around the event space. However, the joystick-based Skycontroller made flying much easier than using the soft controls on a tablet or smartphone screen. Using the VR glasses made it easier still, eliminating the need to mentally remap left and right joystick manouvers depending whether or not the drone was flying away or towards me. This gave me the confidence and ability to fly the Bebop at higher speeds than I would normally try, as well as sucessfully maneuver it around some of the people gathered around the room, only crashing into a wall, like, one time. 

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

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