The vast majority of consumer drones currently on the market are quadcopters or hexacopters: drones designed for vertical takeoff and landing. Parrot has gone in a different direction with the Disco: a fixed-wing drone that flies very differently from others. Parrot’s pedigree in this area is not without precedent, as the company has been manufacturing fixed-wing drones for commercial and agricultural use in recent years. But this Disco drone is not intended for farmers or surveyors, it is designed specifically for drone hobbyists and amateur videographers. So we put it to the test and tested for several hours to see how it differs from its quadcopter cousins.
With a wingspan of 115 centimetres for a weight of 750 grams, the Parrot Disco FPV is made of expanded polypropylene foam (EPP) and carbon tubes for reinforcement. There is a single propeller at the rear to lift it up, with ailerons on the fenders protruding for better handling.
It uses the same 14 megapixel Parrot camera designed for the Bebop 2, but with some software improvements to improve image quality.
The camera is attached to the electronic box called CHUCK (Control Hub and Universal Computer Kit), which includes a connector for the 2700mAh battery.
There is 32 GB of internal storage onboard, with no memory expansion options. There is also a micro-USB port for direct connections to PCs and Macs but that is only for transferring content, not for storage.
The battery has its own charger requiring a wall outlet. Sensory technology onboard includes ultrasound, altimeter, camera and speed sensors.
A three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer and GPS make up the internal navigation system.
The Disco comes with the new SkyController 2 helmet and CockpitGlasses.
The controller is drastically reduced in size compared to its predecessor, making storage and transport easier, and seems to last longer per charge too (it has its own rechargeable battery inside).
The headset is in the same vein as other virtual reality headsets that use smartphones to display 360-degree content.
The list of Parrot compatible phones includes the most popular models, but reportedly almost any iOS or Android smartphone will work for screen sizes from 4.7 to 5.5 inches.
Unlike DJI and Yuneec, Parrot does not use its own proprietary wireless signal, continuing to use WiFi on 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz frequencies.
The new controller seems to offer a more robust connection, but the range is obviously limited, which we noted while flying.
As we noted in our previous hands-on experience, assembling the Disco only took a few minutes.
Configuring it to fly requires turning it on via the power button on the front, pairing it with the FreeFlight Pro app (iOS | Android) over Wi-Fi (the app detects the drone automatically) and the SkyController 2 to prepare it for flight.
We initially had problems getting the controller connection. Closing the app and restarting it seemed to work, but the problem recurred more than once.
The controller has a slot and holder for mobile devices in order to have the screen and app accessible for adjustments or recording and shooting.
The app shows a live view of the Parrot Disco’s camera.
Before flying, the application offers the possibility to customize the configuration of the controller. By default, the flight mode is “Flat Trim”, the best choice for beginners.
Take off is the easiest part. By pressing the take-off/landing button, the motor kicks in, and once the motor reaches a certain speed all you have to do is throw it like a Frisbee so it can take off alone.
The sensors inside the drone are quite impressive. We tried making it take off upside down to see if it could reorient itself properly, and it did just fine, automatically turning around and taking off like a boss.
The Parrot Disco is programmed to climb to 164 feet (50 meters), then stick to a “Loiter mode” standby mode. The drone will then hover in circles 60 meters in diameter continuously until standby mode is manually deactivated on the controller with a simple movement in any direction.
The left joystick makes it possible to accelerate the drone to a maximum speed of 80 km / h, which can put it out of range quickly. Rather, we have tended to use it only for short distances, mainly increasing the climbs and descents.
Note that the radius and altitude of the “Loiter” standby mode are adjustable by sliders in the FreeFlight Pro application.
Technically, the Disco can fly up to 2000 meters in distance, and slightly less than 160 meters in altitude.
On our test flights, we had it flown at a distance of about 500 meters, but since we were in a bowl it was easy to lose sight of it, forcing us to press the Return to Home button on the controller to bring it closer to where it had taken off.
As we noted when we first saw the Disco, its fixed-wing design allows it to fly like an airplane admittedly, but it still has to be on the move.
Quadcopters can pan 360 degrees, fly sideways, and reverse. This one does none of that! Its design forces it to hover continuously, obviously, it cannot hover like regular drones. Loiter mode is the only real remedy to put the Disco into autopilot to adjust settings or take a moment to take a break.
The learning curve for controlling the basic movements of the Disco is pretty smooth, but it takes time to know how and when to use the controls to drive it with a bit of panache.
We have crashed the Disco several times, having misjudged its turning radius and its upward trajectory.
Accidents are quite inevitable when you are flying a drone for the first time. Quadcopters have the ability to change direction in mid-flight if the pilot so chooses. With the Disco, you have to act sooner and anticipate your trajectories because it cannot suddenly move at a 90-degree angle or stop in mid-flight.
What is interesting about this are the different piloting methods.
Pilots can only fly with the SkyController 2, with the controller and a mobile device, or with the CockpitGlasses controller and VR goggles (using a smartphone inside).
The FPV headset projects the view of the drone directly in front of your eyes, leaving the controls blind and touch-sensitive.
We also had someone else wear the headset, while we controlled the drone’s movements with the controller using a long cable to keep the phone plugged into the controller.
Dense areas with lots of people were too risky so we chose parks with large open areas.
Indeed the landing phase is quite complex and requires a lot of free space. Parrot’s Disco needs about 50 meters in front of it, and to descend to 10 meters or less, in order to land properly. If it does not descend low enough, auto-take-off will start and it will climb back to the default altitude.
The grass is the best surface to land on. We have not tried laying it on concrete, asphalt or other rough surfaces and we do not recommend it.
Alternatively, the Disco can do a corkscrew landing, an option provided by the app, except that it needs a space of at least 80 meters in diameter for this.
The “Flight Plan” feature is an in-app purchase of € 20 to map flights in advance. We haven’t had a chance to try it out so we can’t attest to how well it performs.
Flying FPV with the helmet on was really cool. Being able to see what the drone sees enhances the feeling of being seated in a cockpit. The resolution isn’t super sharp, since it goes through a phone, but it didn’t bother us that much.
The FPV Disco immediately begins recording video when it takes off, so manual pressure is not required.
The camera is pretty good in 1080p HD, and the photos aren’t bad. The image sensor and lens are the same as the Bebop 2 , so nothing has changed physically, but some software tweaks seem to have allowed the auto white balance to adjust faster.
The quality isn’t great in low light, but that doesn’t really matter as it’s not a drone to fly with reduced visibility anyway.
The 32 GB internal storage is decent, and it is still possible to transfer content to the phone or tablet via WiFi. You can also transfer your files to a PC or Mac via the micro-USB port (with the option to delete them from the internal hard drive right after).
Battery life is much better than any quadcopter battery.
We flew the Disco for a total of 47 minutes on a single charge, consisting of five takeoffs and landings, with extensive video recordings. Most quadcopter drones can barely fly for half of that time under ideal conditions.
Parrot offers a one-year “support and assistance” guarantee and a 15-day return policy after purchase directly from the company. The sales of retail merchants rely on their return policies, which may or may not mirror those of Parrot.
The Disco is very well built and flies very well, but it is also hampered by its limitations. As a fixed-wing drone without landing gear, it can only describe curved trajectories and does not land on various surfaces like a quadcopter drone. On the other hand, it drives really well, and video movies naturally feel more cinematic due to its constant forward movement.
What are the alternatives?
Fixed-wing drones aren’t available in abundance yet, so the Disco’s unique design stands out for that reason alone.
If we were to include quadcopters and hexacopters in the comparator, the alternatives are more varied. For a little less, the DJI Phantom 4 is a quadcopter that shoots in 4K, and the DJI Mavic Pro does the same in a more compact jig.
GoPro has its Karma quadcopter drone, and for $ 1,100 it comes with a HERO 6 Black camera. Likewise, Yuneec’s Typhoon H is a hexacopter with a folding landing gear that gives its camera a clear view for 4K video.
Even Parrot’s Bebop 2 is a viable alternative because it uses the same camera, controller, and headphones as the Disco. This drone can be obtained with the FPV headset for less than 1000 € now.
What is the lifespan of the Parrot Disco?
Parrot built the Disco to last over time. The central foam structure is fragile, but we have run over it more than once and it can still fly.
An additional propeller is provided in the box, and it is possible to purchase replacement fenders or the engine inserts that attach to the fenders directly. Just about every component of the drone is available for purchase as a spare.
Should you buy it?
Yes, without hesitation. It is a one-of-a-kind drone that provides a different feel from more traditional quadcopter drones.
PARROT DISCO FPV ACCESSORIES AND PARTS
Transport backpack for Parrot DISCO
To transport and protect the Parrot DISCO, Skycontroller 2 and FPV glasses
Can also contain additional batteries and accessories
Interior in moulded EVA / polyester complex, housing perfectly adapted to the shapes
Parrot Disco Long Life Battery
Battery for Parrot DISCO drone
High capacity 3S 2700mAh LiPo type
Up to 45 minutes of flight
Charging time: about 70 min
Parrot DISCO Left and Right Wings
Parrot DISCO – left and right-wing
Accessory for Parrot DISCO drones
Auto Piloting System for Parrot DISCO
Parrot DISCO – a self-piloting system for aircraft
Accessory for Parrot DISCO drones
Propeller and Shock Absorber for Parrot Disco
Parrot DISCO – 1 Propeller + 1 Shock Absorber
Accessory for Parrot DISCO drones
Airspeed sensor for Parrot DISCO
Parrot disco – AirSpeed sensor, On / Off button.
Accessory for the Parrot Disco drone
PARROT DISCO FPV ACCESSORIES PARTS Images And Video