A Total Newbie’s Thoughts on the Parrot Bebop Drone. Spoiler: Holy Freakin Cow!

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

Rewind a few weeks back, and I am sitting with a friend who is building a startup that involves drones. Drones were something I always knew would appeal to me and my geeky side, but never really considered buying one, until that day.

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On my way home, I tweeted this and this. It wasn’t long before Parrot wrote back and after a few DMs back and forth, my first drone, the Parrot Bebop, was on the way. There, by the way, is my disclosure. They sent it to me for free. If you are afraid that fact clouds my judgement or damages my objectivity, feel free to close this tab.

You’re still here? Good, because I will share the amazing aspects of the Bebop, and I will definitely share some of the not-so-amazing aspects of the Bebop


As far as the story goes, I will try to keep it short. At first they sent me the Bebop itself without the Sky Controller. Then this happened. I am now using a new Bebop with the Sky Controller, and I will try to address both packages, the one with the Sky Controller, and the one without it.

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The only way to describe the feeling of pressing that Take-Off button for the first time is to compare it to the first time you tried the Slide-to-Unlock gesture on your first iPhone. Magical.

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Honestly, controlling a drone that can fly to distances you find hard to believe from your iPhone is a magical experience. Anyone that witnessed me doing it agrees it is magical. Watching people’s amazement as I control this geeky looking machine by simply tilting my iPhone is highly entertaining. People, myself included, find it to be overwhelmingly futuristic. And that is without the Sky Controller.

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For those who are not familiar with this Sky Controller thing I keep mentioning, it is basically a glorified remote control for the Bebop that enables me to have better control and extend the range of the drone to a whopping 2 kilometers. Yes, this flying phenomenon that fits in the palm of my hand, can fly two kilometers away, while transmitting full HD video back to your iPad or iPhone without blinking an eye. Magical.

Let’s talk a little bit about what you can do with the Bebop drone. First and foremost, the thing flies with astounding stability and precision, especially for a machine this light and small. I am not going to be comparing it to the other drones on the market because while I did fly the DJI Phantom 2 for a bit, I don’t own another drone to compare it to, so I will say, objectively speaking, the Bebop flies insanely well. Do others fly better? Maybe, but there are enough comparison posts on the interwebs for you to do that research.

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So what else? The Bebop takes footage that is genuinely so beautiful that it is hard to believe this thing took that. I heard that tens of times as I shared some of my footage on the social web. People find it hard to believe. It is that awesome.

You can control the speed, angles, and everything else about the Bebop’s flight from your phone, tablet, or Sky Controller but I would absolutely recommend the latter if you want the full experience. Is it easy to fly? Well, it did take me a few crashes to get serious control but I would say the learning curve does not take more than 15-20 minutes of flight.

Ok, that leads me to my next point. Battery life. Sit down, this isn’t going to be pleasant. If I had to choose one aspect of the Bebop that is absolutely its most painful, it is battery life. Of course, drone technology in general is still in its infancy and pretty much all drones suffer from this, but 15 minutes of flight per battery that takes 45 minutes to charge? Yea, it isn’t pretty.

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I have four batteries, but don’t forget that the Sky Controller needs one too, so we are talking a maximum of 30 minutes of flight. Both the Drone and Sky Controller consume a lot of battery power so both need to be changed often. Nothing worse than sitting in an open field with the Bebop all powered up and no remaining battery juice to take off. It hurts.

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While we are on the topic of the down sides of the Bebop, I have to say, perhaps it is my Apple fanboyism talking but I expect a more premium build from something at this price point. By no means does it feel junky but it also doesn’t feel wow. Take the battery mechanism, for example. The first time I inserted the battery, or tried to, I literally had to Google it to confirm that this is really how you insert the battery. You pull out a little string that then exposes the track onto which the battery slides in. Feels kinda, clumsy, for lack of a better word.

Other aspects of the build just make the Bebop seem like somewhat of a hack, as opposed to the seriously hardcore flying machine that it is. Does any of this affect the overall experience? Is this an indication of the level of tech integrated into the Bebop? No and no.

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The bottom line is this, thanks to the Bebop, I have been transformed in a matter of weeks from a total newbie into a total dronie. Yes, that is a word. Or at least it is now.

What else can I tell you about the Bebop?

The list of features this thing offers is never-ending. You can take high res photos with built-in photo editing tools to change the look of the shots. You can change the direction and angle of the camera from your phone, tablet, or Sky Controller, mid-flight. You can even make the Bebop do all sorts of awesome flips mid-flight by simply tapping on the screen twice. Super simple, super awesome.

This week, I am going to be putting the Bebop to the ultimate test and I will be hooking it up with the Oculus Rift. That means I will be looking through the camera of the drone as it flies. I expect it to be an amazing experience about which I will probably write a follow-up post.

If I was nitpicking, I would also add to the short list of “complaints” that the way it handles video after it is captured needs improvement. Basically, you access them via the app on your phone that needs to be connected to the drone via its Wifi signal. You can then transfer the files but no way to preview them, so you end up transferring files that are either bad footage or something you may have captured accidentally. A small preview button would go a long way.

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I will sum up a month of Bebop usage by saying that if you are in the market for a drone that is both powerful and highly technological, on the one hand, and super simple to use out of the box, on the other, the Bebop is absolutely the best choice on the market.

And below is the first video I ever took with the Bebop. How far I’ve come over the past month…

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hilzfuld

Hillel is Co Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. Hillel also blogs for many influential sites including TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more. Hillel has been named Israel's top marketer, has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, and many others and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts program. You can find and talk to Hillel on Twitter. He is @Hilzfuld.