Amazon may be ambitious with its plans to use drones to delivery small packages, but toy drones, such as the aforementioned AR.Drone definitely have arrived. (As long as you live with the short flight times.)
Parrot's two new toys are a lot of fun. The MiniDrone is a shrunken down AR.Drone capable of flying up to 160 feet from the controller. It has the same four rotor design as its bigger brother, but without the POV camera and it's controlled in the same way using Bluetooth 4.0 via an iPhone or iPad.
To make up for the camera, the MiniDrone has a pair of detachable wheels that allow it to land and roll around on the ground. Here's a video clip of it flying around and rolling around in a Las Vegas ballroom, surrounded by tech journalists:
As you can see, the drone is super stable when it's in the air. Parrot says it's "the most stable micro drone" that uses an "unprecedented automatic stabilization system" that includes an accelerometer, gyroscope and ultrasonic sensor.
You're probably wondering how long the MiniDrone can fly for. Good question. Parrot says it can last 10 minutes before needing a battery recharge.
Parrot's other new toy is the Jumping Sumo. While it doesn't resemble a large Japanese wrestler (not even close), it is another iPhone/iPad-controlled toy. It connects using 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth. Parrot describes the Jumping Sumo as a "robot-insect." Um, sure.
As its name suggests, the Jumping Sumo 'bot jumps. It can roll around on the floor and leap up to 2.5 feet into the air and land on its rubber wheels, which can also turn at 90 degrees at rapid speeds. It has the same 160-foot range as the MiniDrone, but it lasts twice as long: 20 minutes on a charge. The Jumping Sumo also has a POV camera, but it's only QVGA, or 320 x 240 pixels. (Eww. It looks terrible on an high-res iPhone and iPad screen.)
Here's the Jumping Sumo following a line and then jumping onto a platform and then finally through a basket chute:
Despite the fact both the MiniDrone and the Jumping Sumo have been in development for over three years, Parrot still isn't ready to share details on pricing. We're told both toys will be available "later this year." That's not as bad as it sounds. Think of it this way: you have an entire year to save up money for a MiniDrone or Jumping Sumo or both. No excuses.
Posted on location at CES 2014. All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE.