The popularity of FPV drones continues to grow--but are they strictly for recreational use? Not the Bebop 2 from Parrot. Ant Pruitt discusses its specs, the pros and cons, and the business use cases.
FPV (first-person view) drones are becoming increasingly popular--so much that the "worldwide leader in sports," ESPN, has backed the Drone Racing League by broadcasting races this season for the masses to enjoy. Here on TechRepublic, we've discussed a few FPV options via DIY for readers looking to jump into this market. I took a look at an FPV offered by the folks at Parrot. The team sent me its Bebop 2 FPV drone. When I saw it, racing didn't come to my mind, but using it for day-to-day work tasks did. This quad provides a great excuse to bring your drone to the office. Allow me to share my thoughts.
SEE: Quick glossary: Drones (Tech Pro Research)
Bebop 2 FPV spec sheet
Coming in slightly larger than the DJI Mavic Pro, the Bebop 2 has the typical battery, offering 20-25 minutes of flight time as well as an HD camera that shoots 14MP wide angle still images. Unfortunately, the camera is not capable of shooting video in 4K, but it will shoot 1080p HD video at 30FPS. The camera is mounted on a three-axis gimbal ,which allows you to capture smooth footage with ease. Using a wired USB connection, you can pilot the Bebop 2 FPV up to 1.2 miles away. The FPV goggles are interesting, as they use your mobile phone over micro USB to create an immersive point of view. It's similar to the way the Google Daydream View VR works. The Bebop 2 also offers 8GB of flash storage onboard.
Enough spec talk
I don't want to nerd out about RAM, ROM, and pixels. I want to discuss the real-world uses of this drone. The Bebop 2 FPV is truly a drone you can take to the office. It's much smaller than the Phantom 4 Pro, and slower, but the Bebop 2 isn't slowpoke by any means. The acceleration and altitude handling are not as aggressive in this drone.
Similar to my DJI Spark discussion, almost anyone can pilot the Bebop 2 because of its size and handling. This drone is a great choice for filming room-by-room footage of an office space or home if you're a real estate agent. Getting a camera view higher than six feet above the floor is much nicer than one might realize, and it allows for a wide angle view. Just be sure the indoor facility you're shooting is well lit, as the small sensor on the camera will need ample lighting. Not enough light will lead to grainy/noisy footage. Fortunately, the FreeFlight mobile app used to fly the drone enables a few camera adjustments, such as exposure and image quality during flight.
SEE: How to get started with drone photography (TechRepublic)
When I got my hands on the Bebop 2, the first thought I had was that to fly the drone around the corporate campus for inspections or security checks. Even though a lot of enterprise IT continues to move to offsite cloud infrastructure, there's still a need to monitor onsite infrastructure and the equipment that keeps it cool and powered. Need to inspect the rooftop HVAC system? Send the Bebop 2 up. Need to inspect the progress of masonry work on the fourth floor? Send the drone. Better yet, strap on the FPV goggles and get fully immersed during your inspection. The camera's focal length of 1.8mm is a lot closer than you'd realize. You'll really feel like you're flying next to the inspection site. With the drone being relatively small, the propellers are small and the quad isn't super loud. Your construction team will barely know the Bebop 2 is buzzing around.
Bebop 2 weak points
Storage. As much as I enjoyed flying this quad, there are a few weaknesses. First, the 8GB of storage. This may sound like a lot, but it's clearly chewed up with OS data, leaving you with roughly 3GB of storage for your photos and videos. Sadly, the only storage is this flash memory, as there is no SD card option available. This problem is more apparent when you realize you've been recording video since the moment you pressed Takeoff. The drone automatically starts recording HD video when you take off. I don't like this, since footage of a drone taking off is useless. You can transfer files over USB from the drone to your mobile phone or to your computer.
Phone compatibility with the remote. The remote allows for only about 5.5-inch mobile phones or tablets with similar width. My Pixel XL barely fit into the holster. I understand having limitations if you're flying FPV 100% of the time, because the FPV goggles can fit only so many devices. But if you're not flying FPV, larger screens should be accommodated on the remote holster.
Landing. The auto-land works on the Bebop 2, but it's not graceful. The descent is a slow as expected, but once the drone is roughly one foot in altitude, it just DROPS. No soft landing. Just CRASH, it's landed. This is fine if you're in a super grassy area, but not if the landing zone is concrete.
The Bebop 2 FPV is a pretty nifty drone with a great value. For $499 you can get a quality drone to use recreationally or as a tool for work. It's half the price of the larger drones, which don't do well flying indoors. The Bebop 2 FPV has some limited use cases, but it makes the most of them by allowing the pilot an immersive look at their flight path and viewpoint--regardless of whether it's for work or for play.
Be sure to check out some of my video footage of the Bebop 2. Do you have some awesome drone video or photos you'd like to share? Tag me on Instagram with your favorite shots and share your tips with fellow TechRepublic members in the discussion below.