Hands on with the AR.Drone iPhone-controlled quadrocopter

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The IDG News Service folks were able to repair their damaged hull with some SuperGlue, but what if your damage—like mine—isn’t so easily fixable? Parrot has apparently anticipated such destruction, as the company has a section of the AR.Drone Website dedicated to repairing your AR.Drone, complete with repair-tutorial videos. Parrot claims that every part of the ‘copter can be easily changed, and the company sells those parts through the Parrot.com online store. (Some parts will also be available at Brookstone stores.) Thankfully, most of the cosmetic and protective parts are relatively inexpensive: New outdoor hulls are $20, indoor hulls are $30, and mending tape (to repair cracks in the hulls) is just $6. Gears and propellers are also affordable: four-packs are just $10 and $7, respectively. (Our AR.Drone will need a new Central Cross, a $25 part.) If you damage the AR.Drone’s electronics, on the other hand, the parts get pricier: $50 to $100. Hopefully, the hulls will handle the abuse from most crashes—inexpensive repairs would go a long way towards making customers feel comfortable having fun with their $300 toys.

(I found myself wishing I could use the indoor hull outside for additional protection, but because of the indoor hull's increased surface area, it's more difficult to control in wind than the outdoor hull.)

Lots of fun…for a price

Given all the technology inside the AR.Drone, its $299 price tag doesn’t seem outrageous, but that’s still quite a bit of dough to spend on a toy. Nevertheless, if you’ve got the cash to burn, the AR.Drone is a heck of a lot of fun once you’ve mastered the controls, and I was impressed by the little things Parrot thought of to make flying the ‘copter easier. Short battery life and the risk of breakage are disappointments, and we weren’t able to test any of the upcoming augmented-reality games, but I suspect the AR.Drone will be a hit with deep-pocketed gadget lovers, especially if developers create a solid library of apps.

The AR.Drone will be available from Brookstone starting September 3, but you can preorder now.

[Dan Frakes is a senior editor at Macworld.]

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At a Glance
  • Parrot AR.Drone

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