Mostly when you buy a quadcopter that retails around $400 without the controller, you expect the best features for a price that could easily get you a gaming console. And while the Parrot AR 3.0 drone, nicknamed as the Parrot Bebop did come with some extremely good features when it was released in 2015, it still wasn’t quite up to the mark. The reason behind that was the drone had some quirks, to say the least.
The problems were mainly related to how it behaves while flying: sometimes, even the most experienced pilots crashed the quadcopter and to top that, the quadcopter wasn’t durable enough to tank so many crashes. Often the battery would pop out and you would have to wrap the chassis with a thin band in order to fit the battery in again.
But all of these are in the past (according to Parrot). The new and improved model is here, and you can buy right now for as low as $550. Besides fixing the main issues, another thing that improved, since the first time it has been released, is the amount of firmware updates it got over-the-air. So without any further ado, let’s take a look on the new and improved Parrot Bebop quad.
- Explore the world in 14 megapixel full HD 1080p and capture any vista with Bebop’s 180° field of view
- Cruise at your own pace and return home automatically
- Take clear photos and videos using advanced 3-axis image stabilization
- Fly farther and faster with quick charging Lithium ion batteries (included)
- Control your experience with our Free Flight 3 app (iOS, Android, Windows 8.1)
The box in which the Parrot Bebop drone comes is slightly larger, but aside from that, everything is extremely well organized.
Opening the box directly introduces you to the quadcopter in all its glory while going further down will reveal the other items such as battery, quick start guide, charger, and a bunch of adapters for wall charging. Other great additions are the 2 batteries, each of 1200 mAh, and the safety bands that you can easily attach on the left and right sides of the quadcopter.
You can watch the drone being unboxed in the above video.
Design and durability
This is a place where most people have had problems with the Parrot AR 3.0 drone in the past. Unfortunately, they didn’t feel like changing the design in the 2017 design which is a bit disappointing.
The battery slides out a little bit (even with the Velcro attached) after a short flight. The whole chassis is not as durable as you might want it, even after you attach the safety bands on it. But that doesn’t mean the drone is completely bad as it does have its fair share of positives too.
We’re talking about the appealing aesthetics, LED lights, great mechanism of mounting/un-mounting the propellers on the drone, and then some other minor changes. Overall, we wished that the design could have been better and it is even more embarrassing to say that some $150 drones actually have better durability and design than this drone.
Probably the best and the most anticipated thing about the Parrot Bebop was the 14 MP, f/2.2 fisheye lens camera that was included. This makes it one of the first drones to be capable of taking full HD (or 1920×1080 pixels resolution) video footage.
As expected, the camera works normally, but Parrot added an interesting feature: camera filters through the FreeFlight 3 software (proprietary to all Parrot drones). This means you can actually control the exposure/white balance/ISO and other aspects of photo/videography in the drone.
The video taken was surprisingly smooth thanks to the camera stabilization included in the drone that prevents shaky video result. We aren’t sure if this is due to the EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) or the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) equipment, but we liked the end result, and that’s what really matters.
But all of this wouldn’t have been possible without the essential firmware updates which led to changes in the camera as well.
The quadcopter also comes with 8GB of internal storage, which is enough to record 1 hour of HD footage or take several thousand high-quality pictures.
A negative trait about the camera is that it is placed on the very front of the drone, which means that it is the first part to face impact if you crash the drone on a wall during flight. Thankfully, you can cover the camera with the protection cap that comes along if you are flying the drone indoors.
You can see a sample of the video quality and pictures taken by the camera in the above YouTube video.
Battery and flight time
The two 1200 mAh batteries included in the Parrot Bebop drone had its fair share of good and bad features:
- Good, because you don’t have to spend your time buying another battery, allowing you to charge the second battery while using the first battery to fly the drone
- Bad, because the flight time was lower than what you would expect. While there are 250 mAh batteries on some drones out there that can pull off 10-12 minutes of flight time off a single charge, the 1200 mAh one on the Bebop supposedly gives the same flight time.
The problem is still unknown, especially considering that the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection isn’t a major battery hog, nor are the sensors included. The weight might be a possible cause for that, but it may also be due to the wrong calibration of batteries.
The charging time from the wall is surprisingly low (90 minutes). A USB charging session would probably have lasted 3 hours before fully charging the battery.
If you are looking for some extensions and batteries of higher capacity to increase the flight time, there is a 3100 mAh battery available that users have reported being safe to use. Sadly, the extra money doesn’t seem to improve the flight time.
For a battery that is over double the capacity of the stock one, you only get a 40% increment in the actual usage. Instead, you can just stock up on more of the batteries provided by Parrot itself to get the most optimized battery life possible.
The most disappointing aspect of the Parrot AR 3.0 drone is that it doesn’t come with a controller. Think about it: you’re buying an originally priced $500 quadcopter but there isn’t any controller to pilot the thing.
Instead, Parrot decided to sell the controller separately at a price of around $400. Yes, we’re talking the same amount as the drone itself! What’s worse is that even after buying a controller you need a tablet or a phone to hook on to the controller in order to have the complete flying experience.
To be honest, the controller doesn’t really justify the price. It does the job fine, but it’s huge and bulky, especially after you attach a tablet onto it. You could buy the bundle for a reduced price of $800. But if you simply cannot afford to buy a controller like that, Parrot’s software and AI is advanced.
This is enough to get the drone working with cheaper controllers with the help of a few Google searches. One person even managed to pilot the drone using his Xbox controller so that’s also worth checking out.
Moreover, software features provided in the FreeFlight app by Parrot are actually one of a kind. You can limit the speed and altitude of the drone beyond which it won’t budge, which is great for beginners who will learn one step at a time. Even if you don’t buy a controller at all, you can still use your phone to pilot it, which has its own set of benefits.
We are quite impressed by the potential of the Parrot Bebop drone’s flight. It can almost reach 32 feet in height, which is good but is ultimately not the case in practical flight. In real time, going anywhere beyond this distance will automatically make the drone stationary as it disconnects.
Some software quirks add to this since you aren’t able to reconnect even when you are literally standing in front of it. Hopefully, this might get fixed after a firmware update which we can’t deny is pretty consistent. For now, the only workaround when such a thing occurs is to reboot the app and, even if that doesn’t seem to work, reboot the entire phone and reconnect.
As for when the flight system works, you can control it quite nicely. Even though this is something that a drone pilot or enthusiasts of the brand, and experts can live with, it isn’t meant for the beginner who might have a difficult time controlling it.
Value for money and guarantee
The Parrot Company offers a 1-year warranty service but this isn’t applicable on events such as accidental damaging. But then again, most other drone companies don’t bother covering warranty in accidental damage either.
The quad may be a bit expensive, but all its advanced features and the fact that it is quite versatile offer users a great experience. The high-quality camera and smooth flight control (mostly for experts) increase its value and make it worth the hassle of saving.
The first and foremost feature that makes this drone quite great is the app that was specifically developed to control the drone. While the only negative point here is that you don’t get the tactile feedback of a true controller, there are a lot of positives to this aspect.
You can easily control the drone using your phone if your controller is broken which isn’t a feature present in many quadcopters.
You also have the capability of software features such as limiting the height and speed that the drone can fly, which is great for beginners. Frequent updates also suggest that the progress is something you will notice with every subsequent update.
Secondly, it is quite versatile since many people have tweaked and modded this to their own liking. Not only can you change the controller, you can also change the propellers and repair the entire drone on your own without any specialized equipment if you have the skills.
This allows many people to save the trouble of sending it to a service center. This comes in handy when we take into consideration that the service center just doesn’t do repairs on a damaged drone (this is a complaint many people have had).
Lastly, there are a few minor unique features such as a fisheye lens for excellent stabilization, 5 GHz Wi-Fi support for better frequency response and range, replaceable high-capacity battery support and so on.
Similar models or main competitors
This drone is quite amazing in terms of design. The 3K carbon fiber body, painted all black, gives it a very stylish and nice look but aside from that it can tank a lot of damage. This is due to the carbon fiber body that makes it resistant to a lot of damage in comparison to plastic. The use of carbon fiber also keeps the drone fairly light.
The place where the Bebop trumps it is in the camera department. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the camera on the QAV250 is bad; it just falls short in front of a 14 MP fisheye lens f/2.2 camera.
On the other hand, the battery life of the QAV250 is astonishingly low – at just 5 minutes of flight time. Whatever the case, the flight time on the Bebop outperforms the QAV250 even with the latter having a comparatively higher capacity battery of 1300 mAh.
The controller on this drone is almost similar to the Bebop, save for its inability to house a tablet or a phone in order to control the drone. All in all, these drones are neck-to-neck with each other and it’s hard to say if one is better than the other.
Walkera Runner 250R
Though not as mean-looking as the QAV250, the Runner 250R does boast of eye-candy aesthetics along with a performance that is outstanding.
From its top speed of 35 to 40 km/h to its maximum operating range of 1 kilometer, we were truly amazed by its potential. What’s more is that it comes with an included controller so you don’t waste your time and money buying a separate one.
The only place where the Parrot Bebop outperforms the 250R is the camera resolution where you get a larger 14 MP sensor, compared with the 12 MP sensor on the 250R.
One particular thing that makes it especially user-friendly is that it has a buzzer which starts when the controller and the drone lose contact so you can find it in case it gets lost when flying over long distances.
In comparison to that, the Bebop has a GPS system which tracks your location and you can order it to fly back to you with a simple command. Of course, the AI isn’t advanced enough to somehow distinguish between an obstacle and a shadow every time, but it’s still amazing to see such a feature implemented in the drone.
If you think that this model seems interesting, you can find out much more about it by reading our Walkera Runner 250 in-depth review.
If you have an obsession with the Alienware-like design then the Xiro Xplorer just might be the thing for you. Not only does it looks better than the Bebop, it is also better than the drone in many aspects such as battery life and controller included in package in terms of its responsiveness, it’s premium feel and controlling experience, and just plain looks for that matter,
It would be unfair not to mention that this one isn’t perfect either, and falls short in some features such as ease of use because it requires some technical knowledge regarding assembly. It is also recommended to fly the drone first without the camera attached so that users become used to the flight – another indication that this drone isn’t very beginner-friendly. For a better insight into this model’s features, we suggest checking out our Xiro Xplorer in-depth review.
The place where the Bebop is better is once again, the camera. However, this doesn’t mean that the camera on the Xplorer is bad. What’s more, is that with a little tweak you can actually make it better by attaching a camera that is of a higher quality. But since not everyone is a tweaker, the Bebop wins this one.
Flight performance is a strong point of the Xplorer, mainly due to a better response and controller tweaks actually making the flight a great experience. The Bebop is a good performer still but is let down by the bugs and jittery performance issues which can be fixed with software updates.
If you interested you can buy it on Amazon.
A clear look at these pros and cons would give you an impression of what we are talking about:
- Impeccable camera quality.
- Two batteries included in package.
- You can use your phone to control the quadcopter
- Frequent software updates
- Great software features
- Expensive Controller (sold separately)
- Not very durable
- Sluggish flight performance (occasionally)
With all that being said, we can confirm that the Parrot Bebop quad is an interesting drone.
With all the features, positives and negatives mentioned above, the question still remains if we would recommend this to you or not? And our answer is yes, you can buy this if you can ignore some of its negative aspects.