When Parrot introduced the Bebop, the idea was to create a compact quadcopter with high-end features usually only found on larger drones with similarly large price tags.
In other words, the Bebop was designed as an entry-level flying camera with features that are definitely not entry-level compared to other drones in the same price range.
To keep costs (and weight) reasonable, Parrot decided not to use a gimbal on the Bebop; opting instead for a high resolution camera that allows for digital pan, zoom, and stabilization on three axes.
While this solution doesn’t work quite as well as a 3-axis gimbal (such as the Zenmuse system found on many of DJI’s newer products), the system is effective for most pilots and the small size of the Bebop (approximately 12” square and 1.5” tall) mean that the compact quadcopter is well-suited to small areas where larger drones might have difficulty navigating (such as when flying indoors).
Unlike the Bebop’s predecessor, the AR.Drone 2.0, Parrot decided to use an advanced GNSS chipset on the Bebop that has built-in GPS, Glonass, and Galileo technology. This allows the Bebop to hover in place without pilot input and also allows the aircraft to return to its takeoff location automatically.
These are not features typical of consumer-grade, entry-level drones and is one of the reasons why the Parrot Bebop should definitely be on the shortlist of anyone looking to get into this exciting hobby/profession (or anyone looking to add a competent, lightweight machine to their existing flying camera arsenal).
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Overview of the Parrot Bebop
- Video Capabilities: The Parrot Bebop boasts an improved camera with an f2.2 fish-eye lens, 180-degree field of view, and a 14 MP sensor capable of recording 1080p video at an impressive 30 fps. Still shots can be saved in RAW or JPEG format. Unfortunately, recording space is limited to the 8GB of internal storage (no SD card slot is available).
- GPS NavigationAs previously mentioned, the addition of the GNSS chipset provides GPS functionality that isn’t typically found on quadcopters in (this price range). When flying the Bebop indoors (or in other areas where a GPS lock isn’t possible), a vertical camera, combined with ultrasonic and pressure sensors, prevent the Bebop from drifting while hovering.
- Aerodynamics: Weighing in at a mere 14.5 ounces, the Bebop is very lightweight. This means it is very nimble in the air. The downside to its lightweight design, however, is that the battery isn’t very big. As a result, flight times are limited to 11 minutes (high winds and full throttle flying will significantly shorten the flight time). Despite its small size, the Bebop can fly in winds up to about 30 MPH and boasts a top speed of close to 45 MPH – great for taking shots of fast-moving vehicles from above.
- App Compatibility and Functionality: Similar to Parrot’s older drones, the Bebop relies on the company’s FreeFlight app (available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices) for piloting and camera control and thanks to the GNSS chipset, the app can be used to set waypoints for autonomous flight. For pilots that prefer physical flight controls over the touchscreen, the optional SkyController provides two sticks for flying the quadcopter as well as discrete controls for the camera, a button for takeoff and landing, a return to home button, and status lights indicating battery levels for both the controller and the Bebop. Interestingly enough, the SkyController contains its own Android-based OS meaning that with the SkyController, a separate mobile device is not required to fly the Bebop.
- Control System: The SkyController can be connected to an external display using HDMI and it also supports VR headsets for full-immersion FPV flight. Another advantage of using the SkyController is the increased range provided by the amplified Wi-Fi radio – up to 1.2 miles. Keep in mind, however, that the limited flight times of the Bebop make flying long distances an exercise in planned risk. Without the SkyController, the Bebop is limited in range to about 100 meters and lag between the control interface and the drone becomes apparent after about 70 meters.
Parrot Bebop Performance
- Smart Recovery: Despite the limited range of the Bebop when using only the FreeFlight app to control the device, the addition of GPS functionality means the quadcopter will hover in place when it goes out of range to make recovery easy.
- Camera Positioning: Unlike many other drones, the Bebop’s camera is located in the nose of the drone (instead of underneath). Some pilot’s love this design feature, some not so much – in either case, it’s a personal preference but the nose-mounted camera does work surprisingly well. The camera placement, lightweight design, and foam bumpers keep the camera equipment safe during emergency landings and generally appear to be very durable – enduring a couple of crashes without any noteworthy damage to the drone.
- Battery Life: Battery life is the biggest limitation to the Bebop with maximum flight times of 11 minutes per charge. Perhaps the only silver lining here is that Parrot includes two batteries in the retail packaging at no additional cost.
- Competent, if Tricky to Master Video: Overall, the camera works very well and captures smooth video thanks to the anti-vibration algorithms included in the Bebop’s firmware. Still shots aren’t as clear as they could be but are certainly usable for amateur filmmaking and photography duties. Unfortunately, controlling the camera angle is slightly more difficult on the Bebop due to the absence of a separate control stick. Pilots need to allow the drone to hover and use a two-finger swiping gesture to adjust the camera angle during flight – a skill that takes some getting used to.
- Decent App Control, but not Perfect: When controlling the Bebop using the FreeFlight app, the controls feel a little mushy and imprecise. That said, the app does allow the pilot to adjust the responsiveness for all four degrees of freedom – a feature that is especially useful when flying indoors or in tight areas where the stock control responsiveness may be a little too touchy for most pilots.
The Parrot Bebop offers a marked improvement over previous Parrot drones including the GNSS chipset and a much better camera.
A compact design and entry-level price point make the Bebop a solid choice for anyone looking to get into this hobby without breaking the bank, but the limited range (without the SkyController) and short flight times are worth considering before making a purchasing decision.
Also, the fact that the Bebop doesn’t have a gimbal-mounted camera means video won’t be quite as smooth as it could be, but again, for the price, there aren’t any other flying camera setups that are ready-to-fly and perform nearly as well.
Pros of the Parrot
- Inexpensive compared to comparable products
- RTF out-of-the-box (no setup required other than charging the batteries)
- Fast and nimble in the air
- Durable and crash-resistant
- Color options
Cons of the Parrot
- Limited range when using the FreeFlight app (SkyController fixes this but significantly increases the cost of the quadcopter)
- Short flight times
- Noticeable lag outside of 70 meters when using smartphone or tablet for control
- Lack of independent camera controls during flight
- Light weight makes it difficult to fly in windy conditions
For pilots looking to get into drone flying, the Parrot Bebop offers a lot of features for a reasonable price.
The foam bumpers make it a durable quadcopter ready to take a beating by inexperienced pilots.
The functionality and range of the aircraft can be significantly improved with addition of the Parrot SkyController (for an additional cost, see here) but even relying on just the FreeFlight app for control, the drone is a fully-capable flying camera for a fraction of the cost associated with comparable drones from DJI and other manufacturers.
Further read, Parrot Bebop vs DJI Phantom 2 Vision+