Does everyone remember the Parrot AR.Drone remote control helicopter? It was widely hailed as one of the coolest things at CES this year, and since then living room chopper pilots have been aching to get a hold of this thing. Well, that time has finally arrived, if you have nerves of steel and a loose $300.
The AR.Drone is a four-rotor helicopter that is controlled from an iPhone (or iPod Touch or iPad) using the accelerometer to guide it. Tilt the phone in the direction you want to go and the helicopter responds. Best of all, the action is relayed back to your phone by video link that gives you a pilot’s-eye view from the copter. Think about any flight simulator you’re ever played on the iPhone, but with an actual aircraft attached to it. There’s also a second camera pointed down toward the ground. Connectivity from the controlling phone to the helicopter is through an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network.
There are indoor and outdoor hulls (the indoor one provides rings that give the rotors some protection), and the outdoor ones come in three color schemes. Don’t worry, if you want to get one hull in each scheme, they’re available for $20 each at the AR.Drone store, which also has replacements for all the other parts you’re likely to destroy on a bad landing or unplanned rendezvous with a tree.