***Update #3 09/28/2016***
We decided to take the Parrot Disco into the desert where we feel conditions would be “optimal” to see if we could get this thing to reach closer to it’s advertised range. We managed to get 650 meters with the FPV. At 700 meters the video feed began to hang and at 900 meters we lost connection with the unit. Conditions were blue skies, good visibility and we were able to maintain line of site while pointing our device directly at the unit. We were happy to see an improvement in range but we still haven’t been able to even hit 50% of the Parrot Disco’s advertised range.
We love the Parrot Disco and the features it offers we just wish we were able to realize the full potential of what this drone was designed and marketed to do. Thanks to Parrot I now have a new passion that I am obsessed with and will be looking to do a D.I.Y project using Team Black Sheep’s TBS CAIPIRINHA. For the same price you can build a setup that will allow you to fly up to 10 KM with no minimum or maximum height restrictions.
At this point, I would still prefer to keep the Parrot Disco but I think Parrot needs to make some improvements to either their software or hardware related to this device. All I really want to do is be able to fly this thing around and explore my surroundings beyond 700 meters via FPV. If it could actually deliver 2k I wouldn’t return this thing ever. After speaking with one of Parrot’s supervisors, while he did not confirm anything I think I would be safe to bet that they will be making improvements to the SkyController unit down the road to help mitigate the issues that I and I assume many other Disco owners are experiencing.
In Summary, we will be returning our Disco until we see that either Parrot has improved software / hardware functionality or until the open source community figures out a way to upgrade the Skycontroller. We look forward to either instance and will happily make the purchase again once we feel the Disco can actually deliver as promised.
It really is fun and easy to fly and allows the user to really enjoy the FPV experience. Only problem is you really can’t really go that far with it.
***Update #2 09/27/2016***
After speaking with the tech in regards to my range issues (limited to 700 meters) I took the unit to a separate location to see if the range issues were consistent. Again, image quality degraded significantly at 450+ meters and then I would lose connection with the drone @ 600 – 700 meters. I tried different elevations to see if this helped but the results were consistent. I want to keep this drone but I am seriously considering returning it to Amazon if there is no way to fix the range so it can achieve what Parrot has been advertising it to be capable of (2000 meters / 1.2 miles).
You will see in a few areas where I try to go to the max range and it will eventually loop back because it has lost connectivity. I am no where near 2000 meters.
We took the Disco Drone to a new location today to test out it’s maximum range. Disappointingly we were unable to maintain a connection with the Disco past a range of 700 meters. This is almost 1/3 the maximum advertised range of what Parrot is saying this drone is capable of. All of the settings are factory preset so we will be contacting Parrot to see if there is a way we can maximize our connection range.
FPV / Video Connectivity became glitchy and fragmented after roughly 300 – 450 meters. At 600 – 700 meters the video feed would begin to hang and shortly after the connection to the drone would break. Fortunately the auto return home function works great and the drone would always return back to it’s home location when connection was broken.
We were flying our drone over a large body of water with no power lines or physical obstructions. It was slightly overcast but overall visibility was good and mostly blue skys.
We used two separate phones to test this issue and the results were the same:
- Phone 1: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (AT&T 4g LTE, Signal was 4 bars)
- Video feed seemed to be much smoother while it was working compared to the Galaxy S7.
- Phone2: Samsung Galaxy S7 (Verizon 4g LTE Signal was at max)
- Video feed was noticeably more laggy and fragmented compared to the Sony Xperia Z5.
Case #768xxx – “Thank you for calling into Parrot Technical Support your case number is: 768xxx. Please test the disco in an alternate location and see if the connection issue is still persistence.”
According to the tech, they can not provide any form of technical support until we have tested the drone in a separate location far from where we flew today. Fair enough.
While I am skeptical that location is the issue given that we were in wide open area with no power lines or physical obstructions – hopefully it is. Now we wait an hour for the battery to charge back up so I can go elsewhere to see if the results are consistent with my current findings.
- Parrot has done a fantastic job with the Disco Drone. It has packed with tons of technology into a beautiful body, flys effortlessly and provides stunning videos as well as photos. I love my Disco and am glad I made the purhcase but there are some areas that people should be made aware of if they too are considering making the plunge.
- There are a few things I think Parrot needs to patch in their next update that would turn the Disco into the Disco Inferno like:
- Remove the 5 meter minimum cruising altitude limit
- Create different flying modes that allow the pilot to progress their abilities (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert)
- Allow the pilot to cut power to the propeller so we can actually glide the unit. This would drastically improve battery life as well as add a fun element for the pilot to master in the presence of thermals / strong hillside updrafts.
Flight has always been a dream for me. My experience in this realm has always been limited to peering out of the side window on an aircraft, looking down 25,000 feet onto a surface I can hardly recognize… an incredible feat of engineering but hardly inspiring. Living on the coast I always find my self watching Seagulls and Pelicans glide off thermals and winds effortlessly. When I surf in the mornings I am often greeted by a pelican soaring just feet above the wave only to pass by just above my head – such a tease.
Since I was a child I have always wanted to own an RC plane. The gliders especially always seemed to inspire me as they most closely mimicked the natural style of common gliding birds. I think the main reason why I never purchased / built and RC plane was that technology just wasn’t there yet – at least not affordably…. The idea of flying an RC plane is cool, but to be in the plane and have that bird’s eye view… that is what I was after.
Drones have been out for years now with FPV capabilities but as cool as they are to me, they have never captivated me. They way they fly is anything but natural. Like the RC plane – as cool as drones are I could never commit to making the investment. I have the FPV capabilities but now my manner of flight is so far from graceful and natural that they have lost the element that I admire birds for.
The Parrot Disco Review:
Many hobbyists will scoff at the Parrot Disco Drone. For a quarter of the price you could probably build your own unit and it will likely exceed the capabilities of what the Parrot Disco can do in many realms ( although I doubt a home made equivalent would have such a robust stabilizing flight assist & trim feature). Why then would anyone buy one of these pricey foam planes when you can build a similar unit your self for the fraction of the cost or you can get an FPV drone for less?
Why I decided to give Parrot $1,400 of my hard earned dollars? They have been able to combine all of the elements I have been seeking into an RC Aircraft at what I feel is a high but fair price. I am busy enough as it is and quite frankly do not have the time to educate my self, acquire components, assemble a craft and then teach myself how to fly a home built Parrot Disco equivalent… Parrot found a niche in the industry and I happily took the bait.
- User Friendly – I am a total novice when it comes to flying RC planes. Once I found a good open space to test this unit out, I was literally flying within minutes. The user assisted flight capabilities of this unit are incredible. I press the take off button, literally throw this thing into the air and off it goes to 50 meters where it waits patiently for me to take control of the reigns. Once I had a basic understanding of how the Disco Drone responded to my commands, latency, etc… I started practicing my landings which many people have been reporting is somewhat difficult. Guess what, its not…
- Packed with technology – I am the definition of D.I.Y. If I can typically do it my self I do. Not just to save a few bucks but because I learn about whatever I am doing, develop an intimate understanding of that component or machine and because I believe if I take my time and am patient that nobody can do it better than my self. The Parrot Disco is not cheap but like my self and many other people that will buy this unit – we work hard in our own realms so that we can save up money to buy something when we see something that we want. I wanted this thing!
- Simple and easy to use smart phone interface with live video feed.
- GPS Enabled
- Geo Fencing – this is a great function for a newbie like me which ensures my Disco will not go outside of a set parameter range.
- High megapixel camera that can tilt from looking straight forward to straight down (I call it the survey mode)
- Impressive image / video stabilization. I watched videos from my flights this morning and am blown away by how smooth and clear the video is.
- FPV Goggles that I can use with my smart phone.
- Easy to use controller that I was able to learn within minutes of flying.
- Auto take off, auto pilot, (semi) auto land – this was a huge selling point for me. I’ve never wanted to buy an RC plane because I figured I would end up crashing the thing. I’m honestly busy enough doing a dozen other things and as much as I would love to master a traditional RC plane, I just don’t have the time. The auto take off and flight assist features of the Parrot Disco Drone have allowed me to jump straight to the fun part of owning an RC Plane… flying it.
- 32 GB of integrated memory that records while I fly and stops when I’m not.
- Great range and battery life – I flew for a solid 40 minutes today and I still had 16% juice left on my Disco when I was done.
- Return Home Feature – another great selling point for a newbie like me. I live in a pretty dense area and I’ve never wanted to fly an RC plane here because I did not feel like spending hours knocking on peoples doors trying to find which backyard I crashed this unit in. My FPV actually cut out for a few seconds while I was flying and I had really no idea where the hell it was when I took the goggles off. I pressed the return home button and within 30 seconds the Disco was circling 50 meters above my head.
- Aesthetically Beautiful – this thing is gorgeous to watch in flight. I love the minimal design and color choices they went with for this unit.
- Relaxing: because the Disco takes all of the technicality out of flying, I get to focus on what motivated me to buy this unit in the first place… flying like a bird and getting to have that gorgeous bird’s eye view in 720p. Hats off to Parrot for making one of my longest running dreams come true.
What makes the Parrot Disco Drone so great to fly for beginners is also turns out to be it’s biggest crux. I found that I developed basic mastery of the Disco within minutes and found my self wanting to do more extreme maneuvers. Well… you can’t.
- Somewhat Misleading / Illusionary Advertising: I watched all of the Parrot videos and some of the video footage that they use to promote this unit I feel is a misleading in my opinion. For instance, many clips make it look like you can fly this drone just inches or feet above your head for a close fly-by. You can’t. The minimum height the drone will go while in flight is 5 meters / 15 feet from it’s point of origin. I found this really frustrating because I was wanting to really dial in my landing sequence by bringing it in tighter to the ground which would allow me to land the drone much faster and with far less runway being required. In the pilot settings you have the ability to define your maximum and minimum altitude parameters. I can understand why they set the max altitude to 150 meters which I can understand due to FAA restrictions but I am a bit annoyed that there is no way to defeat the minimum altitude parameters of 5 meters. Another scenario where the minimum altitude limit becomes a hindrance would be if I wanted to fly the disco down into a valley below it’s home point. Lets say I am up on a mountain and would like to drop down into a canyon to do a close fly by of a river below – you cant. You are limited to 5 meters above it’s initial home point. I haven’t tested this yet but I am assuming my assumptions would be validated if I tried… frustrating.
- With that said, if you own or purchase an aftermarket RC controller you do have the ability to perform acro feats / more aggressive landings but you can kiss that pilot assist goodbye… It would have been nice if they made beginner, intermediate and advanced settings for the controller that could be set… the ultimate goal being that you could progress to expert mode and fly the unit totally unassisted. As it stands, I know I would quickly wreck this unit without the assist and now it seems I will never be able to develop my skills beyond what the drone is limited to out of the box.
“I was really looking forward to learning how to fly the disco drone without power off thermals or strong hillside winds but you cant.”
- Limited by Design: building off my first negative point, this Parrot Disco’s capabilities out of the box are undoubtedly limited by design. You can not execute any acrobatic maneuvers in any shape or form. No barrel rolls, no steep diving descents, and the one that really gets me is that you can not perform stall turns. You can’t perform stalls on this unit because by design, you are unable to cut power to the propeller. By design this unit will always maintain a minimum cruising speed. When I used to live in Austin, TX there was a popular area where people would meet up to fly gliders on a hill that overlooked Lake Travis. The wind was very consistent here and you could literally fly these gliders for hours just by using the wind coming up the face of the hill (I assume there is a technical term for this?). I was really looking forward to learning how to fly the disco drone off thermals or strong hillside winds but you can’t since you are unable to cut power to the propeller.
- Budget Packaging: I would have hoped for some kind of carry bag for the drone or even the accessories or even a more robust box that I could travel with that for the price tag Parrot is asking for these drones but you get nothing. I’d like to bring this with me on road trips and now I am tasked with building a custom carrying case and finding a smaller tote bag for the controller, wires, and goggles to ensure I do not damage the Parrot Disco’s delicate components or accessories.
- Plastic Components: for the Disco Drone’s retail price I would have expected a bit more robust components to be used on this unit as well as on the controller. I almost snapped the smart phone holder that attaches to the controller when trying to rotate the display. The I understand that weight savings was the objective with the design of this drone but there are several areas on this unit where machined aluminum / carbon fiber components would have been a nice touch for added durability as well as aesthetic appeal. If I was Parrot I would have figured out a way to provide better reinforcement for these delicate wings. Little details go a long way.
- First Person View has limited range: The FPV seems a bit laggy / glitchy / cuts out as you get further from the controller. This is probably a “duh” point for a lot of readers but I was really hoping that I’d be able to maintain a clean and steady video feed consistent with the drone’s maximum range & altitude. I’ve only spent one day flying this and I’ll be taking it out tomorrow, I’m hoping it was just the weather?
- Customer Support: After flying today I contacted customer support to see if they could help me find a way to defeat the minimum flight altitude. I already knew the answer to this because I had already taken time to go through the controller’s settings and determined there was no way but I was hoping someone from the technical department to clue me into to some secret settings. I was speaking with a woman who sounded like she was in her 50’s and as I asked her a question on the phone I could hear her typing my question on the computer. She proceeded to tell me she would call me back in 20 minutes after she had hooked up her Disco to look through the settings and give me an answer. Parrot needs to do a better job of educating people working in tech support because the woman I spoke to did not have a clue.
- Currently No Spare Parts: I am sure that they will be selling replacement parts for these units down the line but not yet.
Summary of the Parrot Disco Drone:
I am really looking forward to the evolution of the Disco Drone in the open source community. I look forward to someone figuring out how to defeat some of the factory presets in the controller so I can push my Disco harder without having to sacrifice the pilot assist. Not being able to fly below 5 meters really rubs me the wrong way – I hope Parrot fixes this soon so I can start terrorizing my dog.
Even with cons that were touched upon I still have zero regrets about purchasing the Parrot Disco Drone. From what I see, they are the first in the industry to tie all of the elements that was looking for in an RC plane into one nice package that could be delivered to my doorstep – ready to go. If there is another company out there that offers a product like this with the same capabilities then I suggest they invest more heavily in advertising because Parrot is winning. I think Parrot has created a fabulous product and I commend them for venturing down other paths besides just quadcopters. I’ve read tons of blogs and comment threads of people ripping on the Disco because it dosen’t have any of the capabilities that a quadcopter has – wake up doods – its not a quadcopter. For me, the Parrot Disco Drone fits the bill.