Today’s drones have a distinct look: four helicopter-like blades on each corner, lovingly named the quadcopter. Looking at any of 2015’s most popular drones, this quadcopter design has created popular flying cameras that are stable, can take off and land vertically and hover in midair. But the Disco drone built by Parrot, that was recently announced at CES, has a decidedly more “Wright Brothers” approach. Foregoing the quadcopter design, the Parrot Disco is a fixed wing drone capable of speeding through the sky, and it looks perfect for long, sweeping, exciting shots – even if it can’t hover.
The biggest question to ask is, “What makes a fixed wing drone that can’t hover better than the consumer-friendly quadcopter design?” The answer is nuanced. Neither is necessarily better, but they’re both good at different things. For instance, if you need to track slow moving objects (like people) or make quick turns, a quadcopter is for you. If you’re looking to survey large areas, create sweeping shots and go faster, fixed wing drones are a better choice. Fixed wing drones aren’t necessarily new (they’ve been used in environmental conservation, war and surveillance for years), but Parrot is hoping that there’s a consumer market for them as well.
To ensure that’s the case, Parrot has gone a long way to make sure that the Disco is user friendly. Parrot is claiming that this drone is easy to use and has no learning curve. With a more familiar design to the uninitiated, this may be a strong selling point for amateurs. For instance, the Disco can take off immediately by being tossed into the air where it will circle above you as it waits for instructions. When it’s ready to land or the battery is low, it will do so softly from where it took off. The landing is surprisingly graceful, so long as there aren’t any bushes or trees in the way. It’s compatible with a large array of controllers too, including RC controllers. With 45 minutes of flight time per charge, there’s little reason to worry about battery life.
Did I mention that it can travel up to 50mph too? That’s very speedy for a drone, and should tempt adventurers to reach new heights and new locations. Thankfully, the Disco will show you real time flight information to help you create the shot of your dreams. There’s no information about pricing yet on the Disco, and details on its camera are scarce, but you can expect the Disco to launch some time in 2016. Parrot is already the maker of some of the industry’s most popular drones (many of them quadcopters), so it’s nice to see the company try something. Time will tell if fixed wing drones are what people want, but there’s certainly potential with the Disco.