Review: AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition brings longer flying time

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 made quite a landing when it arrived last year. We praised Parrot for ironing out control kinks and upgrading the first AR.Drone's VGA camera to an acceptable 720p one. Needless to say, we declared the $300 AR.Drone 2.0 the drone to buy.

There was just one niggling annoyance we had with the AR.Drone 2.0: flying time. The AR.Drone 2.0 can take to the skies for only around 10 minutes with its included 1,000mAh battery before it's forced to land. That's not a whole lot of play time.

In June, Parrot started selling $70 batteries with 1,500mAh that pushed the AR.Drone 2.0 to 18 minutes, but even so, a lot of drone owners weren't too impressed with the 18 minutes of flight time.

Longer Flying Time

With the recently released AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition, Parrot's doubled that flying time to 36 minutes. But the company cheats a little. We say cheat, because the Power Edition only achieves its combined 36 minutes of flight using two 1,500mAh batteries that are included in the box.

Since the drone only has one battery compartment, you're really looking at two 18 minute sessions of flying with battery swapping when the first battery runs out of juice.

Still, we took the Power Edition drone out to brave the gusts and we found battery life to hit those advertised minutes, give or take five minutes. We were able to almost always hit the 165 feet within Wi-Fi range from our iPhone 5 and iPad 3 without any connection issues. That said, we did have some emergency warnings when tiny — almost dot-sized — pebbles and sand got lodged into the gears, which would screw up the drone from taking off. Our advice: don't take off anywhere near sand.

Semi-Customizable

Folks not fond of the orange/black/blue, orange/black/green or orange/black/yellow color schemes of the AR.Drone 2.0 will be very happy to hear the Power Edition comes in stealthy black. The two hulls — indoor and outdoor bumper — are all black. Frankly, we think it looks more badass this way; less like a toy and more like a serious spy machine.

But black may be too bland for some people, which is why the Power Edition includes three additional sets of propellers in blue, red and orange. You can mix and match them however you want or change the default black propellers to one color. It's a nice way to give the AR.Drone 2.0 sleek accents, but putting them on is a royal pain in the butt.

Each propeller is clamped down via a teeny — and stress this — tiny c-shaped screw. To remove them, you need to use a "tool" to literally push the c-shaped screw off. It's really not as easy as it sounds, and the possibility of losing some of the screw during the removal and application process is pretty high. Our recommendation is to make all propeller changes indoors, and very carefully, so you don't lose any of the screws. Parrot does include a handful of extra screws, but once those are gone, they're gone. We admit, we lost a good amount of them.

Flight Recorder

While not included in the Power Edition bundle, Parrot was also generous enough to let us test out the Flight Recorder. This little red box plugs into the AR.Drone 2.0 via USB and acts like a black box does in an aircraft.

It has 4GB of internal storage for saving two hours of 720p video footage and save info such as flight data and GPS locations. For example, with the Flight Recorder attached, you can use the AR.Freeflight app and then tell the AR.Drone 2.0 exactly where you want it to go via an onscreen map.

One little quibble we have with the Flight Recorder is its weight. Because it clips via the USB plug and should be velcroed on top of the drone's battery, the hulls don't really fit over well. (It's actually recommended you don't attach any hull when you've got the Flight Recorder strapped in.) We got around that issue with some scotch tape to hold keep the hulls from slipping off, but it would have been nice to see some more room.

The Flight Recorder is a sweet addition, but at another $130, it's darn costly. This is really something the AR.Drone should have standard already, and if it's not built into the AR.Drone 3.0, we're going to be really disappointed.

Features For The Future

The Power Edition is like an AR.Drone 2.5. It comes with sleeker hulls, two of the higher capacity batteries, and the different colored propeller blades are nice, but a single battery that lasts 36 minutes would have been even more impressive. Actually, make that two batteries that each last 36 minutes for over an hour of flying time and we'd be blown away, but perhaps that's something Parrot is saving for the true successor to the AR.Drone 2.0. And maybe we'll even get a built-in Flight Recorder.

At $370, the Power Edition is still a darn good quadrocopter, if not the best consumer quadrocopter — period. It's better in every way compared to the standard model and only costs $70 more. If there's one toy worth asking for this holiday season that isn't an iPhone, Nexus, PS4 or Xbox One — it's the AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition. It's a blast to play with — even if it relies on two batteries to get over 30 mins of air time.

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook