Three, two, one, let's jam with the Parrot Bebop, a new drone from Paris-based drone makers Parrot. Controlled via an Android or iOS app, the Bebop uses four horizontal rotors to fly, hover and flip. A high-quality HD camera also lets users take video and photos from high in the sky.
I tested out the Bebop at a demo in Manhattan yesterday (Nov. 18), and while I did have a close shave with a decorative fern in the demo room -- the rotors cut off a leaf -- I was impressed with the Bebop's tight controls and good camera. The $499 Bebop goes on sale Dec. 1 online and at Best Buy and Apple stores. A bundle with the enhanced Sky Controller attachment also costs $899.
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The Bebop consists of a barrel-shaped body with four rotors at the corners. It also comes with two foam buffers that can clip onto the sides and offer the rotors protection from collisions. On the snout is a 180-degree fisheye camera with an HD14 megapixel resolution. Despite the fisheye lens, the Bebop's camera has very minimal distortion.
The Bebop can take 180-degree photos, but video is always in 16-by-9 ratio. Via the app, you can choose which section of the 180-degree camera from which to record the video. While you're flying, rubber stabilizers beneath the camera serve to keep the camera as level as possible.
After recording your video and images, you can download them via a micro-USB cable plugged into the Bebop, or from the smartphone via a micro-USB cable. You can also post straight to Facebook or YouTube.
To steer the drone, users can connect to its onboard Wi-Fi network via an Android or iOS device with Parrot's FreeFlight app installed. The app's touch screen has two joysticks, one for steering and one for rotation and raising and lowering the drone in the air. Tapping on the screen with two fingers will also cause the Bebop to do a mid-air flip.
The Bebop also has an onboard GPS chip, so when you're using it outside, you can simply tap a button in the app to get the drone to return to your current location (via the smartphone's GPS). The demo I attended was indoors, however, so the Parrot representatives said the GPS feature wouldn't work.
The representatives also told me that an update coming in early 2015 would let users set "waypoints" via the app, so users can chart a course for the drone.
The Bebop has a battery life of 11 minutes (around 10 with the buffers on), and each Bebop comes with two detachable battery packs.
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Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.