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A Rolling Spider
Like many others, I am not the biggest fan of spiders but in this case I am willing to make an exception. The arachnid in question is of the mechanical type and belongs to the Parrot family of MiniDrones which could well be invading our homes over the coming months. This particular model is the Rolling Spider which combines the ability to travel over various surfaces, including walls and ceilings, plus take to the air in a kind of futuristic helicopter mode.
In its boxed state, the Rolling Spider consists of the Spider’s body that has four propellers mounted on supports at each corner, a slim carbon fibre central axle and two ultra lightweight wheels each with a diameter of 17cm. You also get a small Lithium Polymer 550 mAh battery pack, micro-to-standard USB lead, a folded multi-language sheet of instructions and a transfer sheet of different mouths with which to decorate and personalise your friendly arachnid. I swear that some of the mouths make the Spider look as if it was smiling.
Combining the various components together and sliding the battery pack into the Spider’s body should take less than a minute and you can then start the charging process. This operation will take considerably longer with up to 90 minutes of charging being necessary to give back just eight minutes of action. While charging the device for the first time you can take the opportunity to download the free Parrot FreeFlight 3 app which is available from the appropriate iOS or Android store. This app is required to control the Rolling Spider.
With the battery charged and the FreeFlight 3 app up and running, the Spider will automatically instigate a Bluetooth connection with your mobile device. You will need to enter an email address into the app in order to complete the activation process. In my case, a message immediately appeared advising that an update was required for the Rolling Spider. This message contained the URL of http://www.parrot.com/usa/support from where you could download and transfer the update to the Spider. This message was backed up by an email offering links to this website. Detailed instructions on how to carry out this task is supplied on the website.
The FreeFlight 3 app does need to re-establish the link between the Spider and your choice of controller device whenever you fire up the software. Once a connection has been established you can opt for Free Flight mode which offers the user a choice of interface styles as you switch between Ace, Normal and Joystick mode. My preference was for the Joystick mode.
With left and right joystick controls, there are icons to opt for a flat trim, select one of the pre-programmed aerobatics (great for impressing others with your “so-called” piloting skills) and the opportunity to take photos from the Rolling Spider’s point of view. A button is provided to instigate a take-off and this option will change to landing once you are in the air which certainly solves the problem that some encounter with these two important aspects of piloting.
The Spider manoeuvrability, which is certainly impressive, is down to the built-in 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope. The Spider will respond to the commands from your mobile device. By tilting your smartphone or tablet, you can direct the Spider to proceed in that direction while a quick swipe of a finger can send the Spider scurrying in an appropriate direction. With its built-in camera, the Spider can capture snapshots of the landscape. The images are initially stored on the Spider’s 1GB flash memory for later transfer, via the supplied USB lead, to a computer.
The Rolling Spider, with its eyes that sometimes seem to have an evil glint, is available in a choice of red, blue or white. Pricing has been set at £89.99 for a device that has managed to survive a number of crashes as I gained experience with the controls. Generally my performance was better once I had removed the over-large wheels.
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