This iPhone-controlled helicopter IS as fun as it looks

Parrot's AR Drone — a small remote-control helicopter with four rotors — first got the world's attention back in January. While remote-control flying vehicles are certainly a dime a dozen, this one had a novel feature: control via your iPhone. Recently I finally got a chance to try it myself.

Precise control is a challenge. You use the accelerometer to move the drone — it flies in the direction you tilt. Wisely, an onscreen button toggles this control on and off, and the drone hovers when it's disengaged. Another button rotates the drone left or right. It's as about as simple as these controls could be, but it takes some practice. What really helped me is that the controls of Doom for the iPhone are very similar.

Despite my Doom "training," I had my share of crashes, as evidenced in the video above. All my bad — the Bluetooth control didn't have any relevant lag. Speaking relatively, the AR Drone is a lot easier to control than, say, WowWee's Bladestar. The crashes just made me want to practice more — this thing is fun!

Is it $299 worth of fun, the expected price when the AR Drone comes to store shelves in September? I'd say sure… as long as you can avoid flying it into the jaws of an unfriendly pit bull.


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