One of our favorite consumer drones gets an FPV upgrade.
We've been fans of Parrot’s Anafi drone since its release just over a year ago. In a space dominated by DJI, the Anafi’s thoughtful and considerate design means that it’s the drone I usually prefer to fly rather than my Mavic Pro. The Anafi is small, quiet, compact, takes great pictures, and since it uses the same USB-C charger as my laptop and my phone, it’s easy to travel with.
Over the last year, Parrot has been making consistent (if minor) upgrades to the Anafi’s software, as well as some subtle hardware upgrades that improve both ruggedness and efficiency. And this week, it’s announcing a new pair of foldable goggles that add a first-person-view flying experience that’s easy to take with you.
If you haven’t tried flying a drone through a headset before, it’s a unique experience. Some might even say magical. I wouldn’t say that, because I’m a bitter and jaded tech reporter, but it’s seriously a lot of fun.
Parrot’s Cockpitglasses 3 (Parrot is still terrible at naming things) work a bit like Google’s Daydream headset, in that it uses your phone instead of a dedicated screen. The nice thing about relying on phones for this is when you get a better phone, you get a goggles upgrade as well, although the quality you get won’t be on par with (much more expensive) FPV systems with built-in screens. The headset has two buttons on it which aren't electronic, but instead are hinged to tap on different places on your phone's screen when you push them to send commands through to the app. When the goggles aren't in use, they fold down nearly flat, which is a neat trick for something that looks like it's probably somewhat comfortable to wear.
The main FPV HUD shows contextual information, such as flight speed, direction, altitude, and drone location. But with the click of a button on top of the Cockpitglasses, you can easily swap to a minimal HUD interface, so you can fully immerse yourself in the FPV experience. You can even find your Anafi in mid-air without removing the Cockpit glasses: Switch to See-Through View, and you’ll see live video from your smartphone camera. An overlay shows the exact position of your drone -- and if your Anafi is off-screen, an icon points to its location.
Parrot's Freeflight 6 software is also seeing some upgrades with the release of the FPV kit, on top of additions that have been made over the past year such as live histogram and zebra stripes for exposure adjustments, and automated little planet and tunnel shots. Brand new are two flight presets: cinematic, which locks the roll axis to record video like you're flying smoothly through the air; and racing, which does the same thing except in a more aggressive sport mode.
While Parrot seems to be advertising the Anafi FPV as a new drone in places, it’s really the same Anafi that’s been available for the past year. There have been some incremental upgrades, though. The most noticeable is likely that the weight of the controller has been reduced by 30 percent, almost certainly by removing the interior balancing weight blocks, something that's trivial to do yourself. The drone has been lightened a bit (down to 310 grams), had its arms streamlined and reinforced, and configured to fold up into a slightly smaller package. It’s nothing crazy, but with these small optimizations, Parrot has managed to tease out an entire extra minute of flight time (now 26 minutes)—impressive for a drone this size.
The Parrot FPV kit, including the custom backpack that doubles as a launch pad, will run you US $800 when it's available in “early September.” That’s $100 more than the current MSRP of the drone and controller by themselves. It's not a bad deal, especially if you want to try out FPV flight for the first time. Parrot says that for current Anafi owners, a software update will enable FPV mode, and we'd expect that the goggles will be available to add to your kit in the near future.