Category Archives: News

Parrot Disco review: incredible technology — if you can figure out a reason to use it

While most drone manufacturers are focusing on making compact quadcopter drones, Parrot is taking a completely different approach.

Parrot, known for making one of the first ready to fly drones back in 2011 with the AR.drone and most recently the light, foam Bebop drones, has now created a ready-to-fly fixed-wing drone — the Disco.

The $889 Parrot Disco (price reduced from $1,299) is an autonomous fixed-wing plane. It flies just like a plane — moving forward at all times. (That’s in contrast to most drones you would think of which are multicopters — typically four propellers that allow the drone to hover and move in all directions).

It can land and take off, maintain altitude and stick to a flight path autonomously. It can fly for up to 45 minutes at a time at 50 miles per hour — and sometimes even longer if you are flying with the wind. Flying into the wind? It can resist windspeed of 24 mph. It has a 1080p camera with 3-axis digital stabilization to get smoother video.

Parrot recommends that you have at least two football fields of space to safely operate the drone.

And that leads me to my big question with the Parrot Disco. Why would you use it?

parrot disco flying
Four baseball fields = too many potential lamp posts in the way of my flight path.

You need A LOT of open space to fly this drone. I flew it over a series of four baseball fields. Even still, my drone crashed when I turned it and it hit a huge stadium light.

It’s a fixed wing drone. So, unlike a multicopter, it can’t hover, rise straight up, or navigate into tight spaces.

We’ll get back to that later. For now — let me tell you everything that this drone is about.

Parrot Disco Flight Control

Flying the Disco is certainly an interesting experience. You press the takeoff land to get the motor started, and then you throw it like a baseball into the air. However, the throwing took a couple of tries to nail down. The first time, I threw it way too low and the drone basically took a nosedive right into the dirt. (Protip: aim high!)

Once in the air, the drone climbs up to altitude (164 feet) on its own. The sensor technology here is super impressive.

When the Disco is in the air, the drone flies in “Loiter mode” — basically a 196-foot diameter where it flies in circles until the pilot overrides that by moving the joysticks. (Both the diameter and altitude can be adjusted on the Parrot Freeflight app).parrot disco drone girl

This makes it pretty easy to control once you get the hang of it — and it’s quite fun to fly! Something about flying a plane vs. a multicopter has this exhilarating feeling.

The one major issue about flying the thing is you need open space — a lot of open space. You can’t make sharp turns, so if you are flying into a patch of trees and don’t realize it soon enough to turn (the Disco makes fairly wide turns) well…

Parrot Disco design 

The structural design of the Parrot Disco is truly incredible.  At less than 1.5 pounds, it’s super lightweight.  It is made from EPP (expanded Polypropylene) which feels like foam and and is reinforced with carbon tubes. The wings pop on and off super easily. That’s excellent for if (okay, when!) your drone crashes. Rather than the wing breaking, it more than likely will easily pop right off — which means that when you’re ready to fly again, you can pop it back in. This was very brilliant design, and something I hope more drone manufacturers will incorporate to eliminate damaging the drone during crashes.

It’s also ideal to have easily removable wings for storage.  While the Parrot Disco wingspan is nearly four feet (45 inches), the whole thing can be compacted into a much smaller box for storage.

parrot disco wingspan
Wingspan! Almost as tall as me.

Parrot Disco Skycontroller 2

The controller for the Parrot Disco is an update on its former Skycontroller — this time called the Skycontroller 2. The controller allows you to connect to your smartphone with the FreeFlight Pro app, so you can see what the drone’s camera sees in real-time. The Skycontroller 2 range is slightly more than a mile, according to Parrot.

Just like most  multicopter RC transmitters, the Disco controller has two joysticks — though for multicopter users, they’ll have to get used to the joysticks controlling different flight patterns! The controller also has features like geofencing (this is software that puts a virtual fence in the air) — useful for making sure your drone doesn’t travel too far away.

parrot disco takeoff controller
A neck strap for the controller could have come in handy here.

Parrot Disco Camera

The Disco has a 14 megapixel, HD camera and 32GB of memory. It’s pretty high quality. Check out my YouTube video to see what the video actually comes out looking like.
Because of the aforementioned turning radius and need for open space though, you’re going to need to be flying fairly high — over treetops/light posts/other obstructions to fly this, unless you have very precise piloting skills. That means you’re going to get soaring, wide shots from your drone. They are cool, but they also get old.
With my multicopters, I’m able to get incredibly precise, tight shots: flying underneath the pier and panning up over the waves, hovering over a uniquely designed fountain and then flying straight up, or following me as I bike along a windy trail. You won’t get any of these shots with the Parrot, which makes me wonder what sort of use case a photographer would have for this drone.
I do like that the videos appear instantly in the app on my phone, which means I can upload them instantly to my social networks or text them to friends without having to mess around with uploading the contents of an SD card to my computer.
Parrot Disco FPV headset
The Parrot Disco drone also comes with a FPV headset, dubbed as “Cockpitglasses”. I love that they also work with the Bebop 2 if you have one!  The FPV headset allows you to see what the Disco sees, following the Disco’s flight path with a display of radar and telemetric data. I never used these myself because I wanted to be able to see the drone in my line of sight while controlling it. But, if you had a third person beyond yourself and your spotter, it would be fun for them to be able to wear them and be a part of the drone flight!
Parrot Disco Review: final thoughts
From an engineering standpoint, this is one of the finest pieces of technology I’ve ever reviewed.
The app works wonderfully, and it’s a very cool experience to pilot an unmanned airplane.
However, for $889, I cannot understand why someone would buy this, unless they lived on a huge parcel of flat, open land and had a good chunk of disposal income.parrot disco
Flying the drone takes a lot of effort — it’s not something you can zip around your backyard (unless it’s huge). Parrot’s press announcement for this product was at a golf course in Palm Springs — and it makes sense. You are going to need a lot of wide open space. Even a light pole in a baseball stadium could be enough of an obstacle to crash your drone. So if you live in the desert this could be great — otherwise it will be difficult to find a place to fly.
The video possibilities are certainly cool, but they won’t provide the versatility of shots if your primarily purpose for getting a drone is photography.
And while the drone is relatively easy to fly once you get the hang of it — it is still significantly harder to fly than a multicopter. This drone really is for someone who loves to fly (and not just take pictures).parrot disco review
But at that point, I would rather just have a traditional RC plane, which you can buy for a lot cheaper than $889. (Most good quality, FPV RC planes range in price from $100 to $300).
While I had so much fun flying this drone for review, I’m not sure what type of customer I would recommend this for purchase.
If you have one (or want one!) let me know why in the comments. In the meantime, happy flying!

‘Better than fireworks’: people react to drones flying over Disney World

When you wish upon a star at Walt Disney World, you might end up with drones flying over Disney World instead.

300 drones are flying over the skies at Disney Springs, the Orlando, Fla. theme park’s shopping district.

Intel and Disney partnered up to create the ‘Starbright Holidays’ drone light show, the first ever large-scale drone performance in the U.S. The drone show occurs twice every night at 7 and 8:30 p.m. and lasts six minutes, with 10 different scenes and songs.

So how does it all work? Disney released its own behind-the-scenes, making of the drone light show video.

The drones  take off over land, and then fly out over the water adjacent to the entertainment district for the performance, before returning to land to descent. Water taxis and ferries that typically operate in the water temporarily cease operation while the show is in progress.

And here’s what people are saying about it: Continue reading ‘Better than fireworks’: people react to drones flying over Disney World

More than half a million drones registered in first year

This time last year, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented its web-based drone registration system.

Existing drone owners were required to register by Feb. 19, 2016 or face up to a $250,000 fine. Owners of drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds are legally required to register their drones. (Which means that yes, 1.1 pound Barbie drone needs to be registered.)

During the last year, the system has registered more than 616,000 owners and individual drones. It has now been more than a year since the drone registration site has been launched.

To register, hobbyists pay a $5.00 fee and receive a single identification number for all the drones they own. They must place that identification number in a place that is visible on every drone they operate. (Register your drone here!) Continue reading More than half a million drones registered in first year

New to drones? Here’s a (free) introductory course for new drone pilots

So you want to get into drones? Overwhelmed by everything you need to know?

You’re not alone. There’s a lot to know — what type of drone to buy, how to find out where and when you can fly, the biggest safety concerns, registration, and the rules and regulations for all types of users.

DARTdrones is offering a free online course called Drone Aviator Readiness Training. I definitely recommend you watch it if you’re planning on getting a drone for Christmas, or passing along to your friends who are getting one (since you’re probably a drone pro if you read this blog, right?!)

And, if you decide you want to sign up for one of DARTdrones’ other, full-length courses, use coupon code “drngirl10” to get 10% off your entire purchase!

Happy flying!

How secure is your drone? Intel and AirMap want to add an extra authentication layer

Think your drone isn’t secure enough? Drone management platform AirMap and security company DigiCert partnered up to create a system of identity certificates.

Called Drone ID, the service allows drone users to receive a SSL/TLS certificate, which is basically a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website (or in this case, a drone) and can encrypt the information on it.  Drone operators that register their drone online through the site will receive a digital Drone ID certificate, including a unique, validated aircraft identity number that can be loaded onto the drone and shared with others in the drone ecosystem.

While this likely isn’t something that a hobby drone user would use — for the time being at least — its creators say that secure communication with drones is important for drones that are storing secure data, or in swarm flights where one ground control station is controlling multiple drones.

Intel’s Aero Ready to Fly Drone and Aero Platform for Developers will be the first to receive the identity certificate software, coming in the first quarter of 2017.

“There are instances where people would be more willing to accept drones if they had trusted identity,” AirMap co-founder Greg McNeal said. “Part of the fear with drones is that they often don’t have that trusted identity.”

Your drone Christmas gift guide for 2016

Looking to give a drone Christmas gift? Not sure what to get? Here’s your guide to what drone to get for Christmas, broken down by cost, use case, type of drone and more.

Drone Christmas gifts for photographers:

$: DJI Phantom 3 Standard

Cost: $399

What it is: The Phantom 3 Standard is DJI’s most low-cost drone on the market right now. But just because it’s cheap in price doesn’t mean it’s cheap in quality.

Take 2.7K HD videos and 12 Megapixel photos with the drone’s integrated aerial camera. You get all the incredible features of DJI drones, including the ability to live stream what the drone’s camera sees through your smartphone app for up to half a mile away, and features such as return to home, and 25 minutes of flight time.

Where to buy:

Why Drone Girl loves it: While the video quality won’t be as good as the more expensive photography drones listed below (to be expected), it still shoots excellent quality video with its 2.7K camera. Beyond that, it’s incredibly easy and safe to fly.  Side note, my sister owns this drone, so it has her endorsement too!autel x-star review

$$: Autel X-Star Premium

Cost: $599

What it is: The X-Star Premium shoots 4K Ultra HD video (note that’s better quality than the prior DJI Phantom 3 Standard). It also allows the ability to live stream what the drone’s camera sees from up to 0.62 miles away via an app you can download to your smartphone.

A remote controller makes it easy to fly with buttons such as take-off and return to home.

Where to buy: 

Why Drone Girl loves it: Most people will tell you that Autel dominates the drone industry when it comes to excellent customer service. While ideally you’ll never need to contact Autel customer service, this does bring some peace of mind.

One of my other favorite reasons to consider an Autel. The company will refund the $150 testing fee to any of its customers who take the FAA’s Remote Pilot Certification. If you ever intend to get FAA certified (which you totally should) this absolutely makes the price tag worth it. Continue reading Your drone Christmas gift guide for 2016

Drone Girl’s Cyber Monday sale is on!

Looking forward to getting some Drone Girl swag for the holidays?

Your weekend just got better! Now through the end of Monday, November 26, get 20% off all orders greater than $20! Simply enter coupon code “CYBERMONDAY” at checkout in the Drone Girl shop!

That means you can save $5 on Women’s Tees, save $10 on hoodies, and more!

Drone Girl swag has never before been this cheap! What are you waiting for? Get shopping, and get flying!

Visit TheDroneGirl.com/Shop to start shopping.

Win a DJI Mavic — just make a simple map with Skycatch to enter

Looking for something to do on this long, holiday weekend? Even better…looking for a way to get your hands on your own DJI Mavic for free?

Skycatch is hosting a contest to win a DJI Mavic and a 1-year Skycatch Pro Plan subscription. 2 winners will be chosen from Facebook and Twitter.

How it works:
  1. Use any drone to make a map with Skycatch and share your map.
  2. To enter on Facebook: Like the Map With DJI Facebook page and post your map’s public link on the page in the visitor’s section
  3. To enter on Twitter: Follow Map With DJI on Twitter and tweet your map’s public link including #mapwithdji
  4. Visit this page to get more details and create your free account.
Flying a DJI with your iOS device? Check out my tutorial to learn how to map with the free Skycatch flight app.

The contest is running until Nov. 29 so start mapping!