Before the tiny DJI Mavic Pro there was the Parrot Bebop . It was only good for short flights, struggled when ascending to great heights, and its compact design was hampered by its giant Skycontroller remote. The Bebop 2 ($699.99 with remote and FPV goggles) is a much better aircraft. It flies longer and higher, and includes a remote that isn’t absurdly huge. Parrot bills it as an option for long-distance flight, but it’s a better performer at shorter distances and lower altitudes. If you’re looking for a more serious aircraft in this size class, the pricey DJI Mavic Pro is the way to go. If you don’t mind a bigger quadcopter and want to maximize performance on a budget, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is our Editors’ Choice.
It measures 3.5 12.9 12.9 inches (HWD) and is ready to fly weighs 1.1 pounds. Because of its weight, you need to register before flying with the FAA outdoors, even if you only intend to fly in your backyard. It does not fold as close as the Mavic career, that is 3.3 3.3 7.8 inches when the weapons are stored and transported.
If you do not want to include headphones with Skycontroller 2 or Cockpitglasses, you can buy the UAV itself for $ 549.99. But I strongly recommend using Skycontroller Flight instead of your smartphone-controls more responsive, more intuitive controller has a large antenna to improve the quality of communication.
Four motors power the aircraft, each with its own detachable propellers. A pair of white props go in front and black props in the rear, but you’ll need to make sure you’re putting the right propeller on the right strut. When you open up the box, the Bebop’s motors are covered in alternating blue and yellow rubber covers, with stickers to match for the appropriate propeller. It’s not a bad idea to mark the props themselves, though, as you’ll want to remove the stickers before flying.
Prop installation is a bit of a pain. Instead you need to use a small tool—which is included but looks quite easy to misplace—in order to twist the prop while holding the motor in place, locking it into position. If you invest in a carrying case it’s less of an issue—you’ll be able to store it with the propellers installed—but if you store and transport it in its box you’ll need to remove the propellers to make it properly fit into the packaging.
Video and images are stored in internal memory. It can hold up to 8GB of data a time—more than enough for a few fullly charged batteries worth of aerial footage. You need to plug the drone into a computer via micro USB in order to transfer video. OS X users should take note that the drone doesn’t mount as a volume, instead you need to use the Image Capture app to access files.
You can choose to fly more than Bope Jazz 2 with your smartphone or tablet, parrot FreeFlight Professional application, with remote smartphone, connect with your phone to include remote via USB cable, or connect with your phone remotely and Snuggle up to include scrap goggles. My preference is to use Skycontroller 2 and FreeFlight Pro software together, but it is nice to know that you can fly more than pop jazz 2 even if your Android or iPhone juice you can not change the settings or look at the camera to see.
Flying with the smartphone itself is not my favorite experience. The joystick on the tactile feedback screen is not provided, making precise control very difficult. While the parrot did not announce the maximum range of work without Skycontroller 2, you could bet it would be quite limited, depending on the crowded wi-fi is in your area.
Only Skycontroller is a nice choice if you want to practice your skills and do some cheating than pop jazz 2 can turn forward, backward, or barrel roll direction. But it only takes a minute to screw the phone holder and connect your smartphone. Then you see what the camera sees, you can then swap the controller buttons and other settings to adjust.
The controller has two controls to control the height of the left and the ya disease airplane to the left or right, and it moves forward, behind, left or right in the air. If you fly UAV – play video games will hang quickly. There are A and B buttons, photos and videos by default, takeoff / landing button, return to the home button, set the button (requires the application to be useful).
Left and right control wheels digitally pan the camera up or down and adjust image exposure (brightness). There are also two bumpers, by default used during FPV flight. The left bumper switches between your phone’s camera and the Bebop’s, useful if you need to get a bead on where it is in the sky, but the view is not nearly as satisfying as using your own eyes to keep track of the drone’s flight. The right adjusts the amount of information shown over the live video feed.
If you opt to slide your smartphone into the Cockpitglasses—Parrot’s name for its headset—you’ll see what the drone sees. I find this method of flight to be extremely disorienting, but you may disagree. The FAA doesn’t agree with using a headset either. It recommends pilots keep a drone within visual sight when flying. If you’re an aspiring racer and want to use the Bebop 2 to fly through a set course of gates at low altitudes, safely away from other people or dangerous obstacles, you may find yourself loving the FPV mode.
The Bebop 2 is rated for a 1.24-mile operating range when paired with the Skycontroller 2. In practice, however, expect more limited results. In a rural environment, largely free of wireless interference, I was able to fly about 1,500 feet before starting to lose the video signal. Other drones can fly a lot further—the DJI Mavic Pro did better than a mile (5,280 feet) in similar conditions. But that’s plenty of distance for an aircraft like the Bebop 2.
It was in my typical suburban testing environment where range was a serious issue. I typically do a test flight at a local athletic field, first ascending to the maximum 400 feet and then flying the drone until video becomes choppy to get an estimate of real-life operating range. Not only did I lose video with the Bebop 2 only 100 feet away from my start position at 400 feet in the air, I completely lost operational control. Thankfully the drone’s return-to-home safety feature kicked in and I was able to avoid losing it. But that’s a serious limitation for anyone who lives in a densely populated area and is looking at the the Bebop as a tool for capturing sweeping aerial views of the neighborhood.
If you’re concerned about flying too far from home, the Parrot app allows you to set up a geofence to limit the Bebop’s operating range. I recommend doing so, especially if you’re flying in an area with a lot of wireless networks.
Parrot rates the drone for 25 minutes of flight per battery. I didn’t completely deplete the battery in any of my test flights, but by extrapolating the flight time versus percentage of power used and averaging the data, you can reasonably expect to fly for about 19 minutes on a single charge. It’s certainly not the best flight time we’ve seen, but not nearly the worst either. It’s a solid result, especially when you take the drone’s tiny form factor into account.
The Bebop 2 isn’t the fastest drone in the world, but I was able to get it up to about 24mph. That doesn’t give much of a feeling of fast motion when flying high, but it certainly does when you’re operating closer to ground level.
Video and Image Quality
The front-facing camera shoots video at 1080p quality at 24, 25, or 30fps. Quality isn’t out of this world. The drone uses a big circular fish-eye lens and video is cropped from its small sensor. There’s plenty of resolution to cover the 2MP per frame that you get from 1080p, but because it’s cropped from a tiny point-and-shoot sized image sensor and an ultra-wide lens, you get blurry edges and soft details. Lens flare is also a common occurrence when flying into the sun or with it coming in from the side of the lens.
If you want better video quality in a compact drone, expect to pay a pretty penny for it. The DJI Mavic Pro features native 4K recording, using the entire width of its image sensor, and is a much better option for pro-grade work. But it costs about $300 more.
Video is quite stable, especially when you consider that stabilization isn’t performed with a mechanical gimbal. The Bebop 2’s design incorporates four shock absorbers, and it couples those with digital stabilization to keep footage steady. There’s occasionally some wobbling artifacts, but it’s not nearly as bad as you get with the similar Xiro Xplorer Mini .
If you don’t mind a circular image with a visible border, photo quality is pretty decent, with shots coming in at 13.6MP resolution. I recommend shooting with the full lens and sensor and cropping to suit your needs. Raw and JPG capture are available. The other choice is a pre-cropped, 2MP JPG that’s essentially a frame grab from video.
Pilots looking for a compact, portable drone are certainly going to consider the Bebop 2 as an option. It has some definite advantages, including stable video, solid battery life, and a good operating range in environments without a lot of home Wi-Fi networks clogging up the spectrum.
But it also has some drawbacks. High flyers are going to find its suburban operating range to be a serious limitation, and its video quality simply isn’t great when compared with other drones that capture at a higher resolution. You may not have a 4K TV set, but when you play back footage from the $1,000 DJI Mavic Pro next to that from the Bebop 2, you’ll see that higher resolution capture is a big deal for aerial video, even when viewed on aging tech.
That said, the Bebop 2 does some things the Mavic Pro doesn’t do. It can perform flips and barrel rolls in the air, and it won’t put as big of a dent in your bank account. If you’re more interested in having fun piloting than nabbing aerial B-roll for your indie film or crisp images for your real estate business, the Bebop 2 is a solid option.