A helicopter that wirelessly sends video to its controlling iPad, iPhone or iPod touch will be available in the U.S. in September, France-based Parrot announced this week at the E3 game expo in Los Angeles.
The AR.Drone made its debut at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and will sell for $299 when it goes on sale later this year.
The helicopter has four fans that allow it to fly in any direction. It streams video from the cameras mounted on its front and bottom back to the controlling device. The software on the phone includes controls to increase and decrease the altitude of the toy and tilting the phone controls the motion of the helicopter.
At first the AR.Drone will be controlled by Apple products, but Parrot has made an SDK available and anticipates that the controlling software will soon become available on other platforms.
Henri Seydoux, founder of Parrot, said during a phone interview that the reason the company didn’t develop the platform for Android initially was because it wasn't available when the company started working on the AR.Drone five years ago.
He said that the target audience is children and gamers and that Parrot set out to “make it easy to fly by any kid.”
In one of the augmented reality games the object is to destroy an enemy plane. There is also a two-player mode that also takes advantage of the system's AR capabilities.
In addition to AR.FreeFlight, Parrot announced two other games: AR.Dronegate and AR.FlyingAce. They will be available in the Apple App Store for $2.99 each. The FreeFlight game will be free.
Trusting a $300 helicopter in the hands of a child could spell disaster, but Seydoux was adamant that the AR.Drone could stand up to it. “The AR.Drone is very strong and is made of high grade plastic and carbon fiber,” he said. “You can repair everything with just one screwdriver.”
Parrot will sell replacement parts between $5 and $40.
Going on sale just before the holiday rush, Seydoux hopes that it sells well, but wouldn’t commit to any sales projections.