Temporary Substitute for Mavic

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I’ve been bitten by the Mavic bug like many other Phantom pilots but going to wait for testing by first adopters. Since that may be many months I looked for something similar to play with until time to fork out for a Mavic.

NOTE: I have no relationship with Parrot. Just wanted to pass along my fun experience with this mini review.

I’ve been following the Parrot Bebop for quite some time. It is an intriguing small, tough quad (250mm) that is very portable and has a long list of features. But I read many critical reviews detailing problems that deterred further consideration. However, Amazon has started selling the Bebop 1 for $225 and I couldn’t pass that up. My experience is documented below:

My misgivings we not justified. Been having a ball flying this little jewel. I believe that one reason for my positive experience is that there have been many iterations of firmware since it was introduced. One example: The latest update 3.3.0 has improved the video performance significantly - both recording and live FPV video. This update adds a choice of recording bitrate between 20 and 30 mbps. It improves auto exposure performance, noise reduction and image compression. It also significantly reduces the downlink video lag time to the point that it appears to be every bit as good as the P3A I have been flying. The FPV video is 720P and looks very similar to the P3A. Another major improvement is in WiFi connection stability. I have not experienced any dropped connections during 25 completed flights.

The configuration is basically the same as the Mavic but it does not fold up. It uses peg landing gears and the camera is mounted in the nose. The camera is fixed mount with electronic image stabilization instead of a physical gimbal. The wide angle camera covers 180 degrees but the image is cropped to approximately 90 degrees field of view at 1080P resolution. This field of view is electronically shifted to perform the gimbal action. The field of view can also be panned left/right/up/down by the operator. Extreme wide angle 14 megapixel photos are also possible in raw mode.

Here is a short list of features you would not expect from an inexpensive quad:
14-megapixel camera
GPS - GLOSNASS+GALILEO
Ultrasonic and optical flow control on bottom for low altitude positioning
Dynamic braking similar to P3 (called hover lock)
P7 flight controller, dual-core CPU, quad-core GPU
Electronics mounted on floating magnesium shelf for heat sink and shielding
900 feet WiFi range under ideal conditions (I have had it to 600’ with no problem)
2.4GHz and 5Ghz WiFi supported
Android & iOS apps supporting FPV video, telemetry, RTH, Follow Me, waypoint missions
RC transmitter option for greater range (SkyController)
Props stop automatically on contact.

Negatives:
Flight time is only 11 minutes under ideal conditions. I usually get 9.5 minutes. Aftermarket batteries are available to provide up to 15 minutes.
Storage for videos and photos is only 8Gb and there is no provision for external SD card.
Limited to approximately 15 mph wind. I have had it up in 20 mph for hovering only.

I’ve been flying the Bebop with my Galaxy tab and a USB-connected PS3 game controller. My initial attempts to fly with only the tablet and on-screen gimbals did not go well. But control is positive and precise with the gamepad. I have found the AR.Pro 3 app to be superior to the Parrot FreeFlight app and well worth the $9.99. The optional SkyController is very large with mounting provision for a tablet up to 10.7”. Too large in my opinion. The range of a tablet or phone can be extended with the use of an external WiFi bridge. Several small USB-powered models are available such as the Netgear Trek.

If you want to spend a little more there is also a Bebop 2 that is the same size as Mavic (300mm). It is very similar to the original Bebop but it provides much longer flight time (20 min) and more power.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the little Bebop and highly recommend it as a temporary fun machine while waiting for Mavic.

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Man...I'm with you. I have not received my Mavic, yet...so I succombed to an FPV Bebop 2. It's OK, but not as nice as my past P3Ps with regard to User Interface. However, I am fascinated with FPV goggles and I think I won't be happy with the Mavic until it has compatible FPV goggles. Plus, the PB2 has 25 minute battery life, cheap batteries, extended range (~2km) and the FPV goggles.

BTW...have you received your Mavic, yet?
 
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BTW...have you received your Mavic, yet?
No I am going to wait a year or so after reading all the early adopter issues documented on the Mavic forum. I also got a BB2 FPV pack and really enjoying. I am able to mount my 8 inch tablet on the SkyController 2. Can't do that with Mavic controller.
 
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I remember when I first saw the Bebop commercial (below). I was like "I got to get that!" At the time, I had no idea that drone technology advanced to where you could buy them off the shelf ready to fly. I always thought they were some sort of RC kit you had to put together. Then I saw the DJI commercial for the Phantom 3 and it was all over.

IDK, I still love this commercial. John and the Volta fits so perfect with it.

 
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