The highly anticipated Parrot BeBop quadcopter went for sale few weeks ago, and QuadHangar could not miss the excuse of Christmas to get one of the first models to review.
Below is an extensive review of the BeBop, a drone with fantastic specs that got lots of attention – as well as lots of criticism – from the community.
The BeBop comes fully assembled out of the box.
Compared with the DIJ Phantom, that takes 15-20 minutes to assemble, the feeling is that Parrot created the first semi-professional quad for the average Joe with no previous experience with RC models and UAV.
We have already talked in the previous article “Preparing to fly Parrot BeBop Quadcopter” about getting ready to fly the BeBop, but I want to give an extra tip here.
As your $500 drone is controlled by your tablet (or worse, phone), you better have your iOS or Android device in good order: you don’t want a stupid app popping up while you’re controlling a quadcopter, or your device to run slow because of too many open programs.
Our suggestion is to RUN:
- Reset your device to factory default before installing the Free Flight app;
- Uninstall as many applications as you can;
- No unused applications running on the background.
I really like the design of the BeBop: it’s basically a sexy, colorful flying camera with a wingspan of 280x320mm.
But analyzing the construction closely, we found a few things less appealing for a quadcopter that costs $499.
One is the foam covering the camera, the same foam as the one used for the bumpers: it’s quite rough and badly finished and looks cheap even if, as you’ll see later, it works great in case of collisions.
The battery is held in place with straps, which is a simple decent solution, but a simple ‘click’ system would hold it in place aligned and fitted. Same is true for the charger; the battery just rests on the charger, and it can easily fall off (it happened).
The cables are tied to the legs but still visible. It would be better to have them covered and more protected.
This is the best part of the BeBop.
The take off is as simple as pressing a button on the Free Flight app.
Engines start, and a second later the BeBop is hovering with great stability one meter from the ground.
The overall stability is just awesome and the BeBop is easy to control. On screen, you have in fullscreen the video from the drone camera and in overlay the virtual joysticks: the left one controls the altitude of the drone and the left/right rotation, while the right one controls the inclination to make the BeBop fly forwards, backwards or sideways.
The latest Parrot model can move really fast (speed of each movement is set by the app settings) and performs better than the previous model, the AR 2.0.
The battery life declared is 11 minutes, and it’s aligned with our own tests. In different measurements we record between 10 and 12 minutes of flying time, before the battery went critically low.
When the battery is low (around 13% of residual charge) the BeBop will land for safety, no matter what.
We had heard a few complaints about flying away – that is the oh shit moment when the drone takes on a life of its own and you lose control.
This didn’t happen to us, but two recommendations here:
- Remember to regularly calibrate the quad following the instructions from the app settings
- Write your phone number and possibly the word “Reward” somewhere on your quadcopter
What we did a few times instead, was to crash the BeBop against trees. I wish I could say this was done for the sake of this review and to better serve our readers, but truth to be told we just got too excited and lost control of the thing, making it fall like a stone with a scary beeping alarm.
The quad is still working perfectly, and nothing got damaged. This is firm proof of the construction quality – and the good thing was that we had the hull (bumpers) on during the tests.
It’s a lot of fun to fly this toy, but hey, don’t forget that you’re flying a camera!
Videos and photos
The BeBop has a full HD 14-megapixel fisheye camera integrated into the frame.
The camera has no moving parts, but it is still possible to rotate, tilt and pan the camera thanks to the smart software that simply gives the part of the fisheye image that you want.
About the quality of the videos and photos, there are both great and not-so-great things to say.
The camera stabilization is just awesome, and the resulting videos are really stable and high quality. Standing ovation for Parrot.
The BeBop by default starts recording automatically from the moment you switch it on. While this may sound a cool idea (you don’t have to remember to hit the REC button), this generates video files that can be more than one Gigabyte of data. Transferring them over Wi-Fi takes few minutes and the progress bar is not reliable (hopefully this will be fixed in next Free Flight version).
I prefer to be in control and choose when to record, and this is possible via the app settings, changing flying mode from VIDEO to PHOTOS.
What we found disappointing is the picture quality, especially with low light. They are pixely and just generally poor quality.
Is the BeBop a great quad? Yes.
Is it worth the price tag? Maybe.
Is it the perfect drone for beginners? Well… keep reading.
There are two very important factors here.
First, the BeBop cames with no instructions. Just a risible Quick Start Guide that says nothing. It’s really important to keep calm when you unbox your new toy and read the manual available on the Parrot website.
Second, there are bugs and limitations that we really hope to see fixed in the next version of the Free Flight app.
Update: the good news is that Parrot announced the release of the new version 3.2 by end of January.
This should fix a few bugs, add flying information such as altitude and distance, and hopefully reduce the lag in the videos sent to the smartphone/tablet.
And let’s not forget that if money is not your issue, for an additional $400 it will soon be possible to buy the SkyController that extends the Wi-Fi range to 1.2 miles and gives more precise real joysticks.
BeBop has had a rough take off in the market, but we hope that Parrot will improve both hardware and software to make it fly high in the list of drone for sale!