The Bebop is the latest drone from Parrot, a company which helped kickstart the consumer drone market in 2010 with its AR.Drone.
It is a Wi-Fi remote-controlled four-propeller drone, or quad-copter. Unlike most drones that are big and bulky, the Bebop is sleek and spaceship-like.
Yet, it is packed with a multitude of sensors, including magnetometer, gyroscope, accelerometer and optical flow sensor. It also has a built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) and is powered by a quad-core processor and an internal memory of 8GB.
PRICE: $799 (without Skycontroller) or $1,399 (with Skycontroller)
LENS: 180-degree fisheye
STORAGE: 8GB (internal)
CONNECTIVITY: USB, Wi-Fi
RANGE: 300m with Wi-Fi, 2,000m with Skycontroller
WEIGHT: 420g (with battery and hull)
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
It weighs just 400g - or 420g if you install the bundled foam hull protectors for indoor flying.
To make it light and rugged, Parrot uses styrofoam in many of the Bebop's parts, including the main body. Unfortunately, it also makes the drone look cheap for its price.
With many drones, the camera resides at the bottom. The Bebop's downward-angled camera is at the nose of the main body. The camera has a digital tilt feature to take images at varying angles, but cannot take full top-down images.
The battery takes up half its body. You install it by connecting it to the power cable and sliding it into the body. You then fasten the battery with a velcro strap which keeps it firmly attached. Effective but not very elegant-looking.
Each battery is good for a flying time of 11min, according to Parrot. The package comes with two batteries, so you can fly 22mins at one go. During tests, I found each battery to last around 9min.
Before you start, download the Parrot Freeflight 3.0 mobile app (available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone) into your smartphone or tablet. The app lets you control the Bebop via the drone's own Wi-Fi network.
As a newbie drone pilot, I was apprehensive at first but the app made things easy. Once connected to Bebop's Wi-Fi network, you will see a live stream from the camera, which fills up the entire app interface. The app will keep a history of your flights, allowing you to see the altitude and speed of the drone. You can also see the flight path overlay on a map.
There is an overlay of virtual joysticks and buttons that let you control and manoeuvre the Bebop. Taking off and landing is through a simple press of a virtual button.
But flying the drone with the virtual joysticks is more challenging. The left virtual joystick controls the altitude and turning, while the right lets you move front and back, and yaw left and right. The virtual joysticks lack the precision and responsiveness of a real one. This could spell trouble in windy conditions, as you might not be able to move the drone fast enough to counter sudden changes of wind direction.
In comparison, piloting the DJI Phantom Adanced using its included joystick felt much easier.
Thankfully, you can get the Parrot Skycontroller joystick. Besides giving you more responsive controls, it also extends the Bebop's range from 300m to 2km. The Skycontroller is available here only as a $1,399 bundle with the Bebop.
I found the Bebop to be generally stable in light breezy conditions. But when the wind picks up, its lightweight body becomes hard to control. If you feel that you are losing grip of the drone, hit the Landing button for a quick touchdown.
The camera can shoot full high- definition videos (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) at 30 frames per second. It can capture 14-megapixel still images.
Tilting Bebop's camera during flight using the app is tricky. It is easier to tilt the camera before flight. The camera starts recording video the moment it takes flight. You can manually stop video recording and take a still image by pressing the virtual shutter release on the app.
The still images are pixelated and not very sharp, but should be good enough for use on, say, Instagram. Video quality is fine, but nowhere near what you can get from GoPro Hero cameras.
Video clips and images are stored in the Bebop's internal memory. You can connect the Bebop to a computer using the bundled micro USB cable to transfer files, or do so wirelessly using Wi-Fi. But it is better to go wired.
I am impressed with the Bebop's ruggedness. I was flying it when a sudden huge gust of wind caused it to slam into a tree. It fell 26m (according to the app's last-known altitude record) but was not damaged, other than a few scratches on the propellers. I restarted the drone and got it flying again easily.
• Verdict: With its ease of use and ruggedness, the Parrot Bebop is ideal for newbies who want a stable and crash-resistant drone for practice before upgrading to a more sophisticated one.