Cool Gadgets: A.R.Drone 2.0

This post is the latest in the series Cool Gadgets, which profiles Kike´s selection of machines, inventions, tools, toys and gear in the interest of photographers, travelers and explorers.

Photographer KIKE CALVO testing the A.R.Drone 2.0.
Photographer KIKE CALVO testing the A.R.Drone 2.0.


The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter  is a drone controlled completely via your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android. The 4-propeller quadrocopter takes off automatically, hovers by itself thanks to its autopilot and sensors. It also incorporates a 720p camera located in the nose. Organizations from around the world such as the Stanford Robotics Club or Students at NASA Program are now using the Drone.

¨We have received videos from more than 100 countries,¨ explains Nicolas  Halftermeyer, the Chief Marketing Officer at Parrot, the company that developed the AR.Drone. ¨There are many interesting and funny moments, but I particularly recall a wedding in Singapore were they used our machine as part of the ceremony.¨


Photo courtesy of Parrot.



The Parrot AR.Drone is a toy and was designed for teenagers above 14. Video tutorials help beginners acquire the necessary skills, and flying altitude is limited by software to 100 meters. When asked, Halftermeyer refers to his wish of seeing someone fly an AR.Drone across the channel between the United Kingdom and France.

¨You can attach a GoPro camera to the bottom of the AR.Drone,¨ describes Halftermeyer. ¨Several tutorial videos are available on YouTube on how to do this. But then it’s become more difficult to fly, control and battery time depletes fast.¨

Different people have used the AR.Drone on journalism projects, mentions Halftermeyer.  Jeff from ABC News used its AR Drone to monitor a storm aftermath. In France Parrot is teaming with L’Express Magazine for a “Drone Journalism” Project were reporters and citizens will test uses of the AR Drone to report news.

Curiosity made me get one of these flying toys, wondering about the potential applications for photographers. I must say it is not as simple as it looks, especially when flying in complex indoor situations or windy outdoor locations. Truth is, like everything else, it requires practice to master, but as Nicolas described, the online tutorials may come handy in the learning process.

I am not surprised more than half million units have been sold since its initial launch. It becomes a challenge to control this machine, and your mind starts triggering potential uses. With my AR.Drone I have flown inside Kroon Hall at Yale University, around CERN in Geneva and at low altitude above the sea level in different locations. A toy or a tool, its up to you to decide. I must say I love flying this unique piece of technology. Remember to respect your local laws for drones in your area. For questions about legal issues, I suggest reading the Q&A by the Federal Aviation Administration. As I finished this article, Parrot has released its limited edition, the AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter Power Edition.

In partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for Information Technology Policy (CIT) and The Information Society Project from Yale University, New York University is launching DARC this weekend (October 11-13), a multidisciplinary conference about Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) and drones, with an emphasis on civilian applications. The idea is to bring entrepeneurs, policymakers, activists, thinkers and engineers together, and explore the potential uses of civilian drones.


AR.Drone 2.0
Infography courtesy of Parrot.

Watch this video and guess if I crashed into the ocean while flying at low altitude.

What are the biggest mistakes beginners make?

Taking-off without enough space around them.

Flying very high in wind conditions.

Flying over water.

Advice to someone interested in becoming a better flyer:

 Take your time and watch tutorial videos online.

Review the first time flyer (Spanish)

Then fly in wide open areas.


Safety hints for flying the Drone:

Don’t fly too fast, don’t fly above people.

Limit your altitude.


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Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: