Parrot Bebop 2 review

A drone that – for a little extra – will make you think you can fly

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Out of the box the Parrot Bebop 2 is controlled via Parrot's own FreeFlight Pro smartphone app, which is available for iOS and Android. The drone connects to your handset via Wi-Fi, and a set of controls appears on the touchscreen. From here, you can use a twin-stick setup to maneuver the drone in the air; there are autonomous flight commands such as turns and and loops, and you can get the drone to follow a particular subject as well.

If you're feeling really fancy then you can create a flight plan for the drone to follow, but both this and the 'follow me' functionality cost extra to unlock, which could be considered a bit cheeky when you've just splashed out the best part of £500/$600 on your new drone.

The app automatically toggles between a 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless signal to ensure the drone is always under control, but should the link drop then the drone will remain stationary until you reconnect. The working range is claimed by Parrot to be 300 meters, but we struggled to get that kind of distance during our review as the connection would often drop off.

Most people won't be comfortable with flying a pricey drone so far away that they can't see it, so it's not a major issue, but if you're keen on putting some distance between yourself and the unit then it's worth noting that the FPV bundle's long-range Parrot Skycontroller 2 increases the operational range to 1.24 miles, thanks to its built-in wireless antenna.

The Parrot Bebop 2 can reach speeds of 37.28mph horizontally and 13.05mph vertically without, its makers claim, affecting image quality. The battery is quoted as offering 25 minutes of flight time but that's the best-case scenario; expect to get around 20.

Video capture

The Bebop 2 is that it uses a fisheye lens, complete with 170-degree field of vision, on its 14-megapixel camera, which allows for smoother video recording than on other drones. The unit doesn't record all of this image, but instead uses software routines to anticipate movement and keep the image steady. When the drone is performing a turn the software moves its focus to compensate, resulting in silky-smooth footage which is mercifully free of the shakiness exhibited by a lot of drones in this price range.

Video is captured at 1080p/30fps, and while it's a shame that 4K recording couldn't have been factored in, the quality is decent. The only negatives are that the fisheye lens can be susceptible to aggressive lens flare in certain lighting situations, and when you're flying even at quite close range the video feed is rather glitchy.

Parrot FPV Cockpitglasses and SkyController 2

As standard the Parrot Bebop 2 model can only be controlled using your smartphone and the Freeflight Pro application, but, as we've mentioned, Parrot also offfers a FPV package which includes its Cockpitglasses headset and SkyController 2 long-range controller with physical controls including mini-joysticks.

Like Samsung's Gear VR headset, the Cockpitglasses unit doesn't have its own screen or internal hardware, but instead uses your mobile phone to display what the drone is seeing.

One of the big issues with flying a drone is having to constantly look down at your phone's screen to see the drone's view of the world – something that isn't always easy when the drone is facing you and the controls are reversed. Parrot's FPV solution effectively removes this issue, as you're always seeing the drone's viewpoint, and you don't have the temptation to constantly switch your attention from your phone to the drone itself. As an immersive experience it's stunning; it really feels like you're flying.

The catch is that, when you are 'flying' you're almost completely unaware of what's happening around you in the real world, so it's probably a good idea to use this setup with a companion on hand who can make sure you're not about to wander into a tree or have your belongings stolen.