In the grand ranking of remote-controlled vehicles, the only thing better than a remote controlled plane is a remote-controlled boat. At least, that’s what I used to think. After playing with Parrot’s new generation of Minidrones, I realise that a remote controlled hydrofoil is the true champion of RC anything.
Really, all of Parrot’s 13 new internet-connected robots are just toy drones. Some operate on land, some on water, and some in the air. None of them are autonomous, but let’s just agree that a toy drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle designed for fun.
The most exciting is the so-called “Hydrofoil” minidrone. When Parrot announced the new family of toys a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the new minidrones were basically just the old minidrones with a few new tricks. This is more or less true; except with the Hydrofoil, it’s a really cool new trick. As the name implies, the waterborne vehicle skims across water like a boat, and then once you pick up speed, it lifts right up into the air while staying anchored with a pretty slick-looking hydrofoil fin.
I took the Hydrofoil for a spin at a recent press event and will admit that it’s a pretty novel experience. As we’ve come to expect from Parrot, the smartphone or tablet controls tend to be a little bit awkward and laggy. Nevertheless, I was able to get the Hydrofoil up to top speed in a narrow pool on the roof of a Manhattan hotel. The drone part of the Hydrofoil minidrone is basically just a revamped version of Parrot’s Rolling Spider, a tiny quadcopter with a camera. The $180 (UK localised price TBA) rig can go up to 6-miles-per-hour and seem virtually impossible to capsize. That said, Parrot was pretty cagey about what would happen if you did dunk it in the water. (I’m guessing bad things happen.)
It’s pretty obvious that Parrot is pushing hard for a new category of futuristic toys, and these look cooler than what I’ve seen in the past. (I’d totally take that hydrofoil to the lake!) However, it remains to be seen if people really want to spend what amounts to quite a lot of money on a little car that jumps and talks. Meanwhile, the market for beginner drones is getting awfully crowded. Maybe the best minidrone win.