Parrot has announced Disco, a new fixed-wing R/C airplane due out internationally later in 2016 with a price that has yet to be revealed.
As a consumer drone manufacturer, Parrot is best known for their quadcopters, including the Bebop, AR Drone, and entry-level Minidrones. The Disco is their first consumer fixed-wing product, though it borrows a handful of elements from its quadcopter kin.
For example, the front-facing camera included on the Disco is a technology that was first used on the Bebop quadcopter drone. The camera uses an ultra-wide 180-degree fisheye lens with a high-resolution sensor, letting users selectively pan around the image for the view they want while allowing the rig to automatically create digitally stabilized video. In this way, the compact static camera can simulate the heavy, intricate gimbal systems used by competitors.
Another common thread that connects Disco to the other drones from Parrot is the app-based FreeFlight software control, allowing users to pilot the drone using any iOS or Android device. Through the software, users can also plot out predetermined flight paths for the drone to take — a particularly useful feature for a lightweight (700 gram) drone like Disco that can travel great distances with a battery life of up to 45 minutes.
That said, one feature that is a first for Parrot is the Disco’s compatibility with third-party R/C controllers. This is a feature that many users have requested over the years, as the range of the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth integrated into most of Parrot’s products has inherent limitations. Details are scarce on exactly what controllers are supported or what R/C frequency ranges, but it’s an exciting development that we hope will carry over into other Parrot drones.
The Disco is powered by a single rear motor with an 8-inch propellor. The body is made of lightweight foam and features removable wings to make it easier to pack up.
Will fixed-wing drones steal some of the spotlight from quadcopters? Time will tell, but for the moment Parrot is in the enviable position of being the only name-brand drone manufacturer with a model to offer.