Parrot’s AR.Drone 2 is an HD eye in the sky

Parrot AR.Drone 2 box shot

Parrot’s iPhone-controlled AR.Drone quadracopter has been a staple buzzmaker at tradeshows – quite literally — for years now. So it should come as no surprise that the company’s latest take on the quadracopter, the AR.Drone 2, drew thick crowds as it hovered midair at CES Unveiled on Sunday night.

Though the mechanics of the machine haven’t changed much with this iteration, the optics have. The AR.Drone 2 now uses a 720p HD camera to shoot aerial footage, which it beams back to the iPad, iPhone, or Android device controlling it via Wi-Fi. The AR.FreeFlight app has also improved for version 2.0: It can now be used to share video online and even find nearby AR.Drone users to view their videos.

The Drone also sports two new sensors: a pressure sensor and a 3D compass. The pressure sensor allows it to compensate for changing altitude so that it remains as stable at one meter in the air as five meters, and the 3D compass also contributes to stability.

After watching how users naturally interacted with the previous drone, Parrot also changed the controls to a scheme it calls “Absolute Control.” Rather than forcing pilots to adjust for the perspective of the camera aboard, the drone controls adjust to the perspective of the pilot on the ground. Tilt it toward you to bring the drone toward you. Tilt it away to send it away.

The Drone can use one of two hulls: An indoor version that encircles all four blades to prevent damage from running into walls, and an outdoor version that strips it off to reduce wind resistance.

According to Parrot, the Drone will arrive in the second quarter of 2012 with a price of $299 – the same as the current model.

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