30 minutes flight time for the AR.Drone with Zippy 2200mAh

In the quest to extend the flight time of the AR.Drone David Homan has fitted a Zippy 2200mAh battery to his AR.Drone. This will take your flight time to roughly 30 minutes according to David. In his blog post (automatically translated) David explains that you need to take the extra weight into consideration while landing. He advises to bring the drone further down manually before hitting the landing button. He has some pictures in his blog post that show how he has attached the battery (which has a different form factor and weight) to his AR.Drone.

AR.Drone live onboard video – “height record”

Trying to reach new heights with the AR.Drone out in a field. It does go quite high for a toy quadricopter if you ask me. Flight was reasonably stable but the controls were not very responsive.

The video was shot with Display Recorder, but at the end a lot of frames have been skipped. This video had the following settings: Rotation: Landscape Left, Video Quality: Medium, OpenGL capture: On, Grayscale: Off (obvious), Framerate: 20fps and Lock Framerate: On. I will try to play with the settings and see whether I can improve the quality of the next video. If you have better quality please leave your settings in the comments. Perhaps the lack of responsiveness of the controls is related to Display Recorder.

AR.Drone video recording from onboard cameras test video

Unfortunately it was already dark yesterday when I wrote my previous blog post about how you can use Display Recorder to record the AR.Drone video streams from the onboard cameras. So I had to wait to shoot a demo video. But without further ado I present you the recording of my first emergency landing. (And yes I know, you probably should not fly near those overhead electricity conductors and pylons).

Recording live AR.Drone video with Display Recorder (Cydia)

One of the features that is missing from the FreeFlight software is the ability to take pictures or record the video stream from one of the two onboard cameras. This drone thing was supposed to bring Big Brother surveillance capabilities to the masses, wasn’t it? The video stream for the front and bottom camera is displayed on the iPhone screen but there is no way you can record it. Not unless you jailbreak your iPhone and install Display Recorder by Ryan Petrich ($4.99 in the Cydia store).

With Display Recorder installed you can record everything that is displayed on your iPhone screen. Once installed you start it by pressing the sleep button for 1 second. Display Record will ask you if you want to start recording. It will then record everything to an AVI-file until you press the sleep button again. After recording you can upload the video directly to YouTube from your phone or download the files to your computer through a integrated webserver that you can turn on in Display Recorder.

If you want to record the video from the cameras on the AR.Drone you will have to change Rotation to Landscape Left or Landscape Right in the Display Recorder setting. Display Recorder settings can be found as an option in Settings on your iOS device. Other things you probably want to change are to not Show Taps and perhaps use a higher Video Quality.

AR Drone Parkzone battery upgrade walk-through

One of the first things you get annoyed by once you fly your Parrot AR Drone is the short flight time. Before you know it the battery runs out and you have to hook it up again. You can order some spare batteries from Parrot, but if you feel a little bit more adventurous you can order a battery from another brand with a higher capacity. The standard battery that comes with the AR Drone is only 1000mAh. According to the specifications this allows for 12-15 minutes of flight. Charging this battery takes some 90 minutes.

The 1300mAh battery used in the following video adds approximately 4 minutes to your flight time, but your mileage may vary. The video has a walk-through of how you can modify a custom battery if the connectors do not match.

Amazon sells the Parkzone 11.1V 1300mAh Li-Po Battery with EC3 Connector that is featured in the video for $32.


AR.Drone SDK 1.0.4 released

The AR.Drone SDK 1.04 has been released. The SDK includes source code and control application examples for iPhone and other platforms. Some of the new features in this version of the SDK include:

  • pairing system
  • firmware updating over Wi-Fi
  • engine led animations management
  • new flight animations
  • SSID renaming
  • AR.Drone versioning

You can find the AR.Drone SDK 1.04 on the Developer Zone.