Drones

This Mambo's fun with the right steps

Small and light, the Parrot Mambo is not for heavy objects.
Small and light, the Parrot Mambo is not for heavy objects.PHOTO: PARROT

The Parrot Mambo mini-drone is a cheeky little gadget that adds a dollop of fun to piloting.

The white-and-black device, which fits easily into the palm of my hand, comes with two snap-on attachments: a cannon that fires small plastic pellets, and a grabber arm that can pick up objects.

It can be flown with either the Parrot Flypad controller (not included), or the Parrot FreeFlight Mini app on a smartphone or tablet.

I used the app, which is very easy to set up. Turn on your device's Bluetooth and fire up the app, and the Mambo will be automatically detected. Once it connects, two virtual joysticks will appear on screen, which you can use to guide your craft.

To take off, you can use the controller, or you can throw the drone up into the air and it will automatically stabilise itself - in theory, anyway.

In practice, it takes a couple of tries to get it to stay up, and quite a few times I threw the drone up into the air only to have it crash at my feet. After a while, I found that the trick is to keep the drone level, and to throw it up straight and hard.

Fortunately, despite a handful of crashes, the Parrot Mambo seemed pretty indestructible. With the hulls attached, the propellers were well-protected; a definite must, as there were no replacement propellers in the box.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $229

    CAMERA: 0.3-megapixel, 60 fps

    WEIGHT: 63g

    SIZE: 18cm x 18cm with bumpers attached

    BATTERY: 550 mAh LiPo battery

    ADD-ONS: Cannon and Grabber Arm

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In flight, the Mambo's battery life was very short. On each full charge, I managed five to six minutes before the drone flashed a low battery warning and tried to land, slightly less than the eight minutes that the specs sheet promised.

While it landed safely more often than not, there were several times when the power cut out halfway, and the drone dropped straight to the floor.

While the drone is easy enough to pilot, it is very sensitive to the environment because of its small size and light weight (63g).

Almost anything can cause it to wobble, from a slight air-con draft to a person walking nearby. When I flew the drone in the office, a colleague walking past my table about 1.5m under the drone caused it to move forward a few feet and smack into a wall.

The best part about the Mambo were the two add-ons, which can be snapped like Lego pieces onto the top of the drone. The drone automatically detects which add-on is in place, and the appropriate controls will appear in the app.

The cannon can be loaded up with six pellets at a go, and each small green plastic ball can be fired up to 2m away. The ammunition is light enough to be annoying but not dangerous, so you can use your friends for target practice.

My only gripe is that the balls are so small that they are easily lost, so once you finish up the pack of 50, the cannon attachment is pretty much useless.

I found the grabber arm a little less fun to use, as its weight limit is 4g. This means that it is pretty much limited to carrying slips of paper, and that it struggles even with a small wrapped sweet.

  • Verdict: This fun mini-drone is easy to fly and great for casual pilots.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'This Mambo's fun with the right steps'. Print Edition | Subscribe