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Soar through the sky and see the unseeable with fantastic aerial photos and smooth videos: this is the Parrot Bebop Drone and Sky Controller – and we’re giving away the complete set to one lucky reader!

Parrot have carved themselves a mid-range niche in the drone market: too expensive to be called toys, but nowhere as costly as some professional models. Their newest flagship quadcopter – building on the successful AR Drone 2.0 Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the most expensive remote control toy money can buy; it’s a smartphone controlled quadrocopter with a 720p HD camera, and it’s ridiculously fun, but quite temperamental. What follows is... Read More  – is the Bebop Drone, now available in a package with the new long range Sky Controllerfor $900 (or more like $1200 if you’re ordering from Europe). That’s quite a price jump, so we have to ask if it’s worth it. The short answer is: maybe.

Design

Immediately out of the box, this feels a lot more professional that the previous generation AR Drone – the device is heavier, and though there are still some polystyrene bumpers provided for indoor flying, the body of the drone itself feels a lot more solid.

I do have a few quality concerns about the Sky Controller though: the joins around the plastic were inconsistent, with half millimetres gaps on the left side. After about a day of use, the power switch fell off, and was lost. We’ve contacted Parrot for a replacement, though the unit is still operational without it, you’ll need little fingers or a tool of some kind to get at the switch. This isn’t consistent with the rest of construction though, which generally feels quite rigorous and hardwearing.

What’s In The Box?

  • Bebop quadcopter drone and Sky Controller
  • Set of spare propellers
  • Lightweight bumpers
  • 3 batteries (drone, controller, spare); all 1200mAh and all interchangeable.
  • Charger, with worldwide plug adaptors
  • Sun shade
  • USB cable, iPad Mini / 7″ tablet adapter tray, tool for removing propellers, and carrying strap for controller.

bebop drone and sky controller - package

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One minor frustration: while it’s great that they’ve included worldwide adaptors, the UK one is such that when inserted into a socket, the charging indicator LED points down, and is completely obscured unless you drop down to your knees and peer underneath. Considering there are three packs to charge, this is an annoying design flaw that could have been solved by placing the light on the front.

Controlling the Drone

Like the original Parrot AR Drone Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the most expensive remote control toy money can buy; it’s a smartphone controlled quadrocopter with a 720p HD camera, and it’s ridiculously fun, but quite temperamental. What follows is... Read More  and the Jumping Sumo minidrone Parrot Jumping Sumo Mini-Drone Review and Giveaway Parrot Jumping Sumo Mini-Drone Review and Giveaway Today, we take a look at the Jumping Sumo, a $160 Wi-Fi-controlled self-balancing two-wheeled drone with a wide-angle camera. Read More , the Bebop can be connected to a smartphone or tablet running the Freeflight 3 app and controlled directly from there. In fact, if you buy the drone separately, this is the only way to fly it. The controls remain much the same, and you have the same choice of control styles as before (which basically comes down to absolute or relative position).

bebop drone and sky controller - sky controller overview

However, the package we’re testing includes the new “Sky Controller” (also available separately in Europe, for €499), which claims to increase the range to around 2km with a huge aerial, good quality joysticks and a host of other indicators and features. It can either be used on its own, or combined with an iPad for the ultimate control out streaming video combo.

The Sky Controller is huge and heavy (1.35kg), compared to the relatively small and lightweight (300g) drone it controls. The Wi-Fi aerial alone is wider than the drone at about 40cm across. With extendable mounting plates, it’s designed to accommodate a variety of tablet and smartphone sizes in the centre of the unit, while an array of LEDs on the bottom provide immediate feedback on controller battery, drone battery, and Wi-Fi signal status. Extending to either side are some metal joysticks for an incredible level of control previously only available to top end drones. The joysticks are quite pleasant to use, offering a counterbalanced center point and smooth motion. There’s also some shortcut buttons for land, record etc; and a set of thumbsticks for camera control, and to act as a pointer when used with the internal Sky Controller software and HDMI output.

A sun shade is provided so you can see your tablet or mobile device’s screen while outside, but in practice I never had need of it. The delay inherent to sending video over Wi-Fi means you can’t fly by just watching the screen anyway, but it still has use for setting up shots and checking the angle of the camera before recording.

Ease of Use

Sadly, the Parrot Bebop suffers the same problems as it’s predecessor, in that even the smallest amount of wind will cause horribly erratic behaviour. Don’t fly near to any tall objects or land you can’t access if there’s a light breeze: it will be carried along by the wind.

bebop drone and sky controller - overview bebop

At first I was also quite frustrated with the seemingly random plummeting from the sky that the drone would experience, until I found the setting for maximum height. It’s possible that when flying on my rather hilly garden, the change in height was detected suddenly, at which it tried to correct it’s maximum height by dropping down (and into a bush). Once I’d updated that, performance improved considerably, and my screams of OMG NOT THAT WAY! *CRASH* were quickly replaced by confident excitement. Apologies in advance to the winner for the scuffed propellers – although it’s testament to the drone’s build quality that it was the only damage sustained by falling from the sky.

I began by flying it close to the ground, fearing it would veer off into the unknown. That was a mistake. The small movements but unpredictable motions would often result in hitting walls or vegetation. There are propeller guards provided to avoid damage when veering into walls. But then I started to trust it more – to give it the freedom and height it wanted. It didn’t crash, it didn’t plummet to the ground.  On one occasion a gust of wind sent it toppling over, but it corrected itself shortly after and suffered no damage.

bebop drone and sky controller - indoor wings

Generally speaking: you’ll need a large open space, not much wind, and definitely no animals or other humans, to fly the Bebop successfully.

The Sky Controller certainly makes things easier – the joysticks have a pleasant amount of tactility to them, with a centre point bias that makes it obvious where you’re pushing at any time.

bebop drone and sky controller - joystick

Aerial Footage

The Bebop drone doesn’t have a gimbal to stabilise footage, but the camera is mounted on an anti-vibration plate, as well as a super wide angle 180 degree lens, from which it takes a portion of the image and stabilises it using software. The results, while not perfect, are still absolute stunning – much, much better than the previous generation Parrot AR Drone 2.0, and honestly far better than I was expecting.

aerial photo sample - high
Click to view the full resolution sample image.

You also have some degree of camera control – since it’s such a wide angle lens from which only a portion is being taken, you can pan around to achieve either a straight forward camera angle, or a more traditional down-facing shot. On the flipside of this, there’s no way to access the full wide-angle video stream: you can only get a stabilized portion of it.

bebop drone and sky controller - fisheye wide angle lens

One small problem I found was that the camera defaults to facing forward, so without an output device like an iPad to accurately judge where the camera is currently pointed, it’s easy to forget this. This is very frustrating if you wanted aerial footage, only to find it’s been facing forward the whole time.

Note: Transferring footage to a Mac requires the use of Android File Transfer program. On Windows you can just plug it in.

Advanced Features

Unbelievably, their promotional video still includes footage of an Oculus Rift being used with the Sky Controller, despite the fact that it has never, at any point, been compatible. The video is faked, and the Sky Controller remains incompatible with either the DK1 or latest DK2 Oculus Rift. To continue using it in promotional material is, in my opinion, downright deceptive.

The Sky Controller is however compatible with regular First Person Video (FPV) glasses and headsets – the kind that simply take an HDMI input and don’t require any visual distortion or lens effects (which is why the Rift is still unsupported). Unfortunately, I don’t have one of those to test with. Supposedly, the USB input can also be used with head tracking gear to control camera position, but again, I don’t own any FPV glasses to test.

bebop drone and sky controller - hdmi ports

You can even set a flight plan using GPS coordinates, but the box states that this is an in-app purchase – a disgusting money grab considering we’d already paid around $1200 for the controller and drone kit. Also: it’s not actually available yet, either.

Battery Life

It’s great that they provide 3 batteries, because you will need them – and in a pinch, you can always yank it from the Sky Controller and use that one too, piloting instead from a mobile or tablet. Each battery is the same, 1200mAh, and in theory the stated battery life when used in the drone is about 25 minutes. I didn’t get nearly that much, but wind conditions will affect how much the motors need to be driven, so in practice you will often get less. Even on a perfectly clear day, I got 10 minutes at best. The Sky Controller in basic mode (no HDMI output, just as a controller) lasts significantly longer, and you’ll be able to get through a full few hours of flying and Bebop battery changes before you even need to consider swapping out the controller pack.

bebop drone and sky controller - battery pack

Official extra battery packs are pricey, but you can buy packs of 2 slightly higher capacity 1600mAh third party compatible battery packs on Amazon for $50, which isn’t bad really. Grab those and you should be able to get 30 minutes to 1 hour of total fly time with your 3 spares.

To Infinity and Beyond!

Is the Bebop drone and Sky Controller package worth $900? Maybe. If you have an occasional need for aerial photography and video (I can think of estate agents and landscapers, and that’s about it) – or if you’re just a well funded hobbyist – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by what the Bebop offers. It’s a shame that some of the promised features like Oculus Rift support still aren’t in place though, and it seriously calls in to question the trustworthiness of the Parrot brand as a whole.

The Bebop drone and Sky Controller straddles a line between professional grade drones and toys. It’s a good stepping stone if you can afford it, but if you have even more to spend you should skip straight to the DJI Phantom 3 or Inspire models.

Parrot Bebop Drone and Sky Controller Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. SOF
    March 28, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for the info,

  2. Baim JPM
    August 20, 2015 at 3:08 am

    thanks 4 info...

  3. sherry keef
    July 21, 2015 at 6:33 am

    Congratulation's Caroline !

  4. Athul Krishna
    July 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Bad luck, anyway
    Congrats Caroline

  5. Vinicius George
    July 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Where can i see who won the giveaway?

    • James Bruce
      July 19, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      It'll be shown in the widget once they're picked. We'll email you if you win!

  6. James A Wright
    July 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    what would happen if it hit a pylon/power cables

    • Athul Krishna
      July 18, 2015 at 10:24 am

      kaboom!!!

  7. Steve Mistwalker
    July 15, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    What happens if the battery runs out mid flight? Does it have an auto-land feature or does it just fall out of the sky?

    • James Bruce
      July 19, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      You get an obnoxious alarm at about 5%, so you're expected to land it at that point. I didn't ever run it down to zero, but I believe it has an emergency landing which would be initiated, though that isn't much different to just falling out of the sky...

      • Steve Mistwalker
        July 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

        Thanks for the info, James. That's good to know. I figured there must be something built in to get you out out of trouble.

  8. Mário Santos
    July 11, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    I am a multi esclerosis EMS sick and this drone the bebop and this contest Would be great for me to watch beyond my house and see the sorroundings two km . And because i dont work i dont have money to buy it and my desise pension money they give to me is not enought to properly live. And is just a dream to have. Something like this fantastic drone the bebop i hope i can Win this prize. May be its a dream, but if is possible i try. Thanks to you fantastic guys.

  9. Athul Krishna
    July 11, 2015 at 11:51 am

    This is great for people like me who cant afford a fortune price on the drones I really am curious and excited for this contest.
    Peace.

  10. Ryan Kennedy
    July 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I'm currently taking part in a few contests to see if i can win because well being honest i don't have a lot of money. I'm from the UK and im very interested in starting using a drone as a hobby. This isn't a beg for me to win though and good luck to all :D

  11. Sujith Deuz Soman
    July 9, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Thank you for hosting!!!!! Hope to win!!!! Wishing luck to all!!!!

  12. john.l.hall
    July 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Couldn't see a link so I hope this is the way to enter. I'd love to win this as my thoughts of printing a drone have hit a serious road bump.

    • James Bruce
      July 6, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      This is not the way to enter. At the end of the article, you'll find a giveaway widget, the first bit of which involves logging in with either Email, Facebook, or Twitter; then you're taken to additional entry steps. If you dont see the widget, it's possible you're running Adblock, or something else which prevents scripts from being loaded.

      • john.l.hall
        July 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

        Thanks I see it and entered the competition

  13. alfred chan
    July 6, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Love to win this. :)
    Thanks anyway!!

  14. Edmond Leung
    July 3, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Holy batman. Wow, prize drone is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :) Pick me, pick me! Dear Santa: I’ve been nice. My X-Mas wish this year is to win this contest. Starving artist here desperately needs the drone to work and eat. A life changing exp.

    • Max de Feijter
      July 8, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      So you need this for photography? I would more recommend a DJI Phantom. This is a really great and fun drone, but it's less useful for photography. Then again, I've never used a Skycontroller.

  15. albeni syarif
    July 3, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I hope i can win :D

  16. tisonly143
    July 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    This is amazing!!! love it and thanks for the chance :) Hope everyone has a happy 4th of July...

  17. roel urbina
    July 3, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Happy 4th! I hope I win.

  18. Alex Clark
    July 3, 2015 at 7:47 am

    The Parrot Bebop would be great fun to fly and record video/take photos with and I think it's pretty cool. Thank you for the awesome giveaway, good luck everyone, and Happy 4th of July!!! :-D

  19. Andrew Rump
    July 3, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Send it to me - in Denmark! :-)

  20. Rose Goode
    July 3, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Happy 4th of July Please keep you children and pets a way for fireworks Don't drink and drive

  21. Sarah De Diego
    July 3, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Are Canadians eligible to win this cool prize?

    Besos, Sarah
    Journeys of The Zoo

  22. Enrico Colautti
    July 3, 2015 at 4:30 am

    You could make 3 people very happy: me and my children!

  23. Prabhath Kaushalya
    July 3, 2015 at 4:29 am

    hope i win

  24. Dave Tchozewski
    July 3, 2015 at 2:59 am

    Pick me. Pick me.

  25. Paul Pierce
    July 3, 2015 at 12:52 am

    That would be amazing to fly.

  26. Eric Coles
    July 2, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    could use that for farming and ranching. hope i win

  27. Nie ieie
    July 2, 2015 at 7:49 am

    My lord, that thing is perfect<3

  28. Kaif Khattak
    July 1, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Nicevery interesting

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