Drones

Parrot Disco – Extend your Wings

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Enjoy an unprecedented flight experience

Quadcopters, hexacopters, and other variants have been the main types of drones. So far, there has not been any worthy fixed-wing drone for consumers, until now. The Parrot Disco is the first truly user-friendly consumer class drone. There are a lot of reasons why manufacturers have steered away from fixed-wing form factors. Parrot addresses most of those problems and have come up with the Disco for a different kind of drone piloting experience.

Summary

The Parrot Disco is a fixed-wing drone. It is a cross between traditional RC model flyers, and quadcopter/hexacopter drones. It brings the advantages of a fixed-wing aircraft to the consumer drone market in a fun way.

The Disco does not look like a regular plane. It looks more like a big wing, or like a simplified B-2 bomber but with a propeller at the tail. It is also designed to crash. With its lightweight construction, it can fall apart during a crash. There should be no damage to the plane, you just need to assemble it again.

Parrot Disco

It can fly for at least 40 minutes. If you don’t want to push it, it can fly as long as 60 minutes. It can be geofenced to fly within only a given distance from the user. It is rated to fly at up to 1.2 miles from the controller, but the signal supposedly can reach up to 3 miles in ideal conditions.

It has a FPV headset unit, which allows the user to view what the Disco’s camera is seeing. This is almost like a VR unit, allowing for multiple screens of information and telemetry, or for the camera view. A controller comes with the unit, however, there is a warning to the effect that when using the FPV, that there should be a co-pilot flying the drone. The controller can be used with a smartphone, where the apps are stored. This allows for some preset flying, including setting the geofencing parameter, launch and landing.

The FPV is easy to setup, and it uses standard USB cables to connect to the controller. Flying is augmented with the use of an AI called the Control Hub & Universal Computer for Kit (C.H.U.C.K.) which helps prevent stalling.

Our Score:
Pros
• Highly intuitive
• Easy to fly
• Very rugged and durable
• Easy FPV setup
• Autopilot
• Easy to launch
• More than 40 minutes of flight time
Cons
• Expensive

Parrot Disco Technical

As any RC model aircraft flyer will tell you, there are a lot of things to know about flight. These things include banking on the turn, more power in certain situations, and generally, understanding stall conditions and how to avoid them. This is where the Parrot Disco comes in. Parrot has made the Disco easy to fly by putting in all these control conditions into an AI called C.H.U.C.K. This unit does all the computations and additional controls to prevent the plane from stalling. It also prevents novices from crashing their Disco.

Parrot Disco

To launch Parrot Disco, you start it with the remote control, and throw it like a frisbee. It will then climb to 50 meters and fly in a holding pattern, until you start giving it commands via the controller. Landing is not that easy. It lands like a glider, with the motor off. Since it has no landing gear, it will feel and look like a controlled crash. Better to do your landing on a long strip of grass. Don’t worry about the propeller, if folds when not in use.

Crashing the Disco is actually the least of a user’s worries. It was designed to withstand crashes due to everyday use. It does not have a collision avoidance system. It is also crashed to land it. The plane is made of light expanded polypropylene material resulting in a lightweight aircraft. To assemble the Disco, the wings are attached to the body with the use of guides. No screws are required. When assembled, it looks like a big 1.1 meter wide wing.

As a fixed wing aircraft, the Parrot Disco can only fly forwards. The aerodynamics of the plane is totally different from a quad. Fixed wing aircraft achieve lift due to the wing. Maneuvering is achieved with flaps on the wings. In order to keep flying it has to keep moving forward. On the other hand, in a copter, lift is achieved by the propellers. The propellers also act as the maneuvering surfaces. You change the direction of the propellers to change the motion of the drone. Unlike a quadcopter, the Disco cannot hover, fly sideways or backwards. It would be hard to program it for follow mode, as it would just flyby when you stop moving.

parrot-disco-1

With that in mind, it is easy to see why it only needs one motor. This explains why it can achieve more than 40 minutes of flight. It also results in a faster flying drone. If Parrot delivers accessories to the Disco, it should be able to handle the heavier load, but compromising the speed, and time in flight. For instance, another camera in the fuselage would not be a bad idea. An extra battery may sound to be overkill, but there is space enough for one in the fuselage.

The video is good and comparable to other cameras in its class. It has a 32GB internal storage, and uses a microSD card to transfer files from the drone. It has a software-based stabilization system, as well as an anti-blur system, which helps to keep the video crisp and clear. It also saves in MP4 format.

Parrot Disco

Seasoned RC flyers can use their own controllers to allow for manual flight. They can do all the stunt flying that they want with the Disco. In the hands of someone who flies RC model planes, there are a lot more things that it can do compared to what the Parrot controllers are allowed to do.

 

Verdict

TheParrot Disco is carving a niche on its own. It is a fixed wing aircraft with an AI which helps prevent stalling and crashes. It is fast, can fly for more than 40 minutes on a single battery charge, and has great video. Launching and flying it was made to be easy. The landing is just a controlled glide to an elegant crash.

It is lightweight, and easily assembled, rugged to the point that it is designed to fall apart when it has a hard crash. The plastic can be taped or glued for minor repairs. All in all, it is sturdy and great for novices. Seasoned RC model airplane flyers would want to see how it flies with the AI, and it can do the stunts as well as regular model airplanes.

At a retail price of $1,300, it is more expensive than regular RC flyers, and as expensive as top-of-the-line camera drones. RC flyers might not want to switch to it due to the cost. First-time buyers would also not be interested.

Official: Parrot

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