Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0, the second-generation iPhone, iPad and Android controlled quadricopter, has leaked ahead of its official debut at CES 2012 this week. The four-rotor'd gadget now has a 720p HD camera which can record as well as stream footage to the new AR.FreeFlight 2.0 piloting app, a premature press release at DIYDrones [reg. required] confirms, while a new "Absolute Control" method promises to make flying the AR.Drone 2.0 even easier than before.
Whereas the first-gen AR.Drone - which we reviewed back in 2010 - required you to keep track of where the front of the quadricopter was, the new Absolute Flight mode relies on a 3D magnetometer built to let the the second-gen model know what orientation it's at in relation to the smartphone controlling it. That way, "the pilot no longer needs to care about the orientation of the AR.Drone 2.0's front camera, which will accurately track the smartphone's motion and tilt."
The traditional steering method will still be available as an option, and you'll now be able to pre-program preset flight paths. Meanwhile there are some tweaks to the sensor array, with a pressure sensor used to boost vertical stability, new blade designs for smoother flight, and a slightly altered hull. As before, two shells are supplied - one for indoor flight, one for outdoor - and there are flashing LEDs to keep it looking impressive.
Apps for both Android and iOS are available, and there's an open development platform for third-party game and other app developers to tie into the new AR.Drone 2.0. According to the leaked release, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 will go on sale in Q2 2012, priced at $299. We'll be keeping an eye on the skies at CES to see if we can spot it there.