We Review: Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

Back in 2011, I did the one and only hardware review for this blog. It was for Parrot SA’s high-flying AR.Drone. I crashed it a couple of times, once into a light fitting at work. Mercifully no one was injured, except for my pride. Another time, an extremely high fence stopped what would have been a suicidal plunge into a ravine. It was the wind’s fault, honest.

Operator error aside, I lamented the AR.Drone’s terrible battery and even worse camera. And I said the price was too damn high. That’s just a quick summary though. You’re more than welcome to read my review of the original AR.Drone here.

Now, Parrot SA’s new AR.Drone 2.0 is not exactly new. It was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show of last year but was only available for purchase in South Africa several months later, in October. The new AR.Drone has been bumped up to version 2.0 and that would indicate some major improvements over its predecessor. What are they you ask? To find out, I decided to take it for a spin. See my flight log after the jump.

Same same, but different. The overall looks of the AR.Drone 2.0 haven’t changed all that much. The quadricopter still contains a central control unit that connects out to the four whirring propellers. The sensitive equipment in the hull is still protected on the sides and bottom by foam and plastic. And it comes with two protective hulls—one indoor, the other outdoor—that cover the top. I noticed that the design of the outdoor hull has changed a little, moving away from curved plastic cover to an angular one. Is that a good thing? If only I were an aerodynamicist.


It seems a lot of the R&D money has gone into the innards of the toy, focusing on how the AR.Drone 2.0 views its surroundings and not what it looks like. And that’s good to see. The AR.Drone 2.0’s wide-angle camera has received a much-needed upgrade and now it can capture your terrible attempts at flight in glorious 720p, at 30 frames per second. It’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff but given the poor 640×480 resolution of the previous model, I’d consider that a significant change. The previous AR.Drone didn’t allow you to record the video, but in 2.0 you have two options to save your videos and photos. You can connect a USB flash stick to the central hull and have the video transferred onto that, or it can be stored on the fly to the smartphone that you’re using to control the AR.Drone 2.0. It works as advertised and the files are stored in MP4 format. See below for a video of the crash course that I went on earlier.

Parrot SA recommends that you avoid flying the AR.Drone 2.0 in wind conditions over 15 km/h. This is inconvenient if you live in Cape Town where summers winds are known to roar up into the 60s! Speaking of outrageous speeds, the motors on the AR.Drone 2.0 whips the blades around at over 28,000 RPM while the device is hovering! It creates quite a downwash, and that can be well awesome, especially if you want to clean a particularly dusty floor. It’s not whisper-quiet so spying on your neighbours will be difficult unless they are extremely hard of hearing. Without any speakers, there is absolutely no chance of you blaring Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as you fly about the place. Pity.

The Cape Doctor was being kinder than usual this year but it did make for inhospitable flying conditions during our tests. Just like its predecessor, even the slightest of breezes would seem upset the AR.Drone 2.0 and send it careering off in a direction that you did not intend. If you happen to be in an area where there is interference to the WiFi signal, the video feed on your smartphone stutters a little. If you’ve played games online, you’ll know that lag can be a killer. In these circumstances, it can become problematic and frustrating to control the AR.Done 2.0 away from obstacles.


Speaking of controls, the AR.Drone 2.0 introduces a new flight mode: absolute control. This mode uses the pilot as the reference point, meaning the AR.Drone will always fly in the direction that you tilt your smartphone, no matter which direction the quadricopter is facing. Absolute flight mode is meant to make it more a little easier to fly the AR.Drone 2.0 as opposed to the relative reference control scheme that might cause some confusion. If you don’t feel like tilting your smartphone, you can use your thumb on the software joypad to direct the  AR.Drone 2.0 forward, back, and sideways. In my tests, I preferred joypad mode because it proved to be more responsive to commands.

Along with the hardware, the AR.Drone 2.0 app has also been given a refresh. My comments here are relevant only to the Android app. I wasn’t able to test the iOS version. The AR.FreeFlight 2.0 app is a vast improvement over the one its predecessor used. In fact with the previous version, I found other third-party apps to be better. It’s not the case with FreeFlight 2.0, the app is a usable one. You edit the various flight settings and upgrade the firmware. You view the recorded videos and photos, and in this age of interconnectedness, the app makes it easy to share your content with the popular social networks, Picasa, and YouTube. There is also an AR.Drone Academy that lets you share your flights and statistical data about them with the drone-flying community around the globe. At the time of writing this feature is available for iOS but is “coming soon” for Android.


A quick check on Google Play reveals that the Android app (v2.0.13) hasn’t been updated since November 2012. While it performs its functions well, the UI design could have done with some more work. The app mashes together Window 8 style tiles and iOS toggle buttons in the settings screens, and oddly orange bevelled buttons in the piloting screen. It’s a bit of a mess, and given the build quality of the AR.Drone 2.0, it’s a pity that the app didn’t have a more consistent look and feel.

Let’s talk quickly about the battery. Sadly it’s still a drain on the fun and it lasts just the same flying time as its predecessor, if not a little more. I got about 12 minutes of flight time out of a full charge. There is an audible warning when the battery level falls below 15% and the quadricopter won’t want to fly any more after that. If you’re desperate, you can unplug the battery and plug it in again to coax an extra two to three minutes. It takes well over an hour to recharge the battery, so an extra battery is a must if you want to prolong the experience. A search on a local online retailer shows that a battery unit costs over R400. The price of the protective indoor hull is in the same price bracket. The AR.Drone 2.0 itself retails for the recommended and depressing price of R3,499.


The more time I spend with the AR.Drone 2.0, the more I like it. I want it. I need it. But, like the people I’ve showed it off too, that desire is quickly quelled when I mention the price tag. I go to great heights to inform them that the camera is much improved and captures good 720p quality videos, and that the flight controls have been made more accessible. The app is far more attractive and responsive than the last and, while the battery may only last about 12 minutes, the flying experience is thoroughly enjoyable. But R3,499 leaves more of an impression than anything else. This high-flying auto-stabilising quadricopter is still very much a niche toy that is little out of reach for some people.

Detailed Information:

Manufacturer: Parrot SA

South African Distributor: SMAC

Recommend Retail Price: R3499


11 replies on “We Review: Parrot AR.Drone 2.0”

I feel this is a very nice indoor toy if you live in a windy area. After struggling with the absolute controls, which i found slow to respond, I switched back to the old mode and started enjoying it more . Its still not as responsive as my little counter rotating blade heli which caused a few unwanted landings against some walls and such. I think if you put the blade protector on and stalk you coworkers like a HK drone in Terminator I think you can have loads of fun. Perhaps Parrot should consider a Nerf add-on so you can take them out…

Thanks for helping out with the crashing testing, Rhino. :P

I too found the joypad to be the best control scheme. Yesterday I tried it out at the Sea Point promenade. It was still, I had the outdoor hull on and it made for 12 of the best minutes of flying I’ve had. I wanted to get it up higher than before but I kept having visions of it veering towards the unforgiving Atlantic ocean.

I covet this more than I did the original AR.Drone. I don’t want to give it back.

Your enjoyment of the AR Drone may depend on the device you use when you head out the door. My Transformer Prime has the best screen for outdoors use but the worst wi-fi reception of any device ever. My Nexus 7 has a good high-res screen and the smaller size is easier to hold but the Android software was very buggy and would just plainly refuse to connect to the Drone half of the time. My iPad 2’s screen is not that good outdoors (but good enough), wi-fi reception is excellent and the software on iOS 5 is fast and stable. My iPhone 4s screen is too small to see what the Drone sees and the Galaxy S3 screen is not very visible outdoors.

Capacitive gaming stick-on buttons or sticks make it much easier to control. I really enjoy the photo and video modes outdoors; you can get some really unique shots from unusual perspectives. The game apps supplied by Parrot are pretty fun too but stay away from the 3rd party apps. I noticed that the battery life really depends on how you fly it, how high and how strong the wind is outdoors. The Drone is constantly auto-correcting itself to stay stable and the more it has to do this, the worse your battery life becomes.

Next up: Mounting my Gopro on the Drone. Imagine the awesomeness!

Thanks for the comments, Seerower.

I used my Samsung Galaxy S3 with the AR.Drone 2.0. Initially I too had trouble connecting to it but a click of the reset button fixed that problem. Aside from the UI inconsistencies and missing the AR Academy, I didn’t have too many problems with the Android app. Parrot demoed Director Mode at this CES this year and it should prove awesome when the apps get updated with the functionality.

I never got more than 15 minutes out of the battery in any of my flights. But I am led to believe one could try aftermarket batteries. It seems the AR.Drone hacking community is a busy one and I’ve seen tuts for extending the wifi range and flying the quadcoputer with an RC controller. Mounting a GoPro camera would be an amazing hack! If you do get it done, I’d love to see the footage.

I do whinge about the price of the AR.Drone 2.0. R3,499 is expensive (well to me, at least) but given the sophisticated things it’s doing, I suppose the price is understandable. A friend sent me a link to SteadiDrone, a local company that makes quadcopters. Their prices bowled me over!


I’m considering to buy AR Parrot Drone. I have a few questions in mind:

1. does it really survive the crashes when you learning to fly?
2. you fly it using your tablet, which is in a wifi zone. and your parrot is outdoors how do you control it if it is outside of your wifi range?
3. where can you buy it? online stores are selling it for ZAR 4200 can i get it cheaper it Gauteng region?

Thanks, plz email me the reply

Hi Sadiq,

It’s been a while since I last played with the AR.Drone 2.0 but I’ll scan my memory banks and try to answer your questions.

1. The AR.Drone’s central cross is pretty sturdy. The indoor hull can take some bangs to the wall but like most things, it should be done in moderation. I wouldn’t ram it at full speed into any solid object ;)

2. I only controlled it with the smart phone but regardless of the control device, if the AR.Drone 2.0 goes out of range, it’s likely to fall out the sky.

3. R4,200 is the recommended retail price so it’s the likely price you’ll find in the shops. I see Yuppie Gadgets is selling it for R3999. You might find it on Gumtree or OLX for cheaper.

Hope this helps.

Thanks prawn1,
I saw the promo video, in which the drone was flying all around town. but in realtity once it is out of wifi range it will stop responding?

Thanks a lot. Your quick response and honest opinion is much appreciated, I think I should first find a way to increase my WIFI range than go ahead with the toy :)

Best Regards

I haven’t been keeping up with the news, but here’s a link to a MyBroadband article where they summarize how the regulations apply to the private use of drones.

The newly adopted 29 page regulations – known as Part 101 – apply to everything from private to commercial use.

Private use regulation is restricted and entails that:

the use drone has no commercial interest;
the drone is operated on property owned by the operator (or on property that the operator has the necessary permission to fly on); and
distance thresholds – 500m from the pilot and never higher than any obstacle within 300m from the pilot – of operation are maintained.
While certain universal standards of use still apply to private use, there is no obligation to have the RPA approved and registered nor is there a licencing requirement, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr stated.

Source –

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