The Parrot Disco with FPV is now released and it’s the first easy to fly, fixed wing drone with FPV available right out of the box. This drone is full of features and technology, promising to deliver a completely immersive flight experience.
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The Disco is definitely not what you normally think of when you hear “drone”. With a wingspan of almost 4 feet, it’s best to think of it more of a plane…with autopilot. In fact, the Parrot Disco with FPV is an ultra-light, fixed wing aircraft that boasts speeds of up to 50 mph and a flight time of up to 45 minutes. It comes with a new and improved version of the original Skycontroller, the Skycontroller 2 as well as Parrot’s Cockpitglasses; used for first-person view flying (smartphone required).
Lightweight Design, But Also Strong and Powerful
The Parrot Disco is basically a flying wing. The single propeller – located behind the drone – “pushes” rather than “pulls”, like a traditional plane. The Disco is made from expanded polypropylene foam, reinforced with carbon tubes. This makes it reasonably strong while maintaining a very light weight, 26 ounces to be exact. So if you’re in the United States, yes, you will have to register your Parrot Disco. An HD camera, mounted in the nose of the Disco, records every flight and stores the files in the Disco’s internal memory. You should be able to hold plenty of video with the Disco’s 32 GB of storage but if not, you’ll have to start offloading since there is no memory expansion available.
Parrot Disco’s wings were specially designed with both stability and speed in mind. They utilize an exclusive aerodynamic airfoil to improve lift and reduce trail while in flight. Winglets implemented on the tips help out with stability as well, effectively functioning as the tail of the aircraft. They even incorporate ailerons, which allow the Disco to steer like a plane.
The performance of the Disco is pretty impressive, especially from a single motor. The 1280 kV brushless motor can propel the drone at speeds of up to 50 mph. It will also resist winds of up to 24 mph. I wouldn’t recommend flying this, or any drone, on a considerably windy day but it’s nice to know that it won’t get tossed around like a kite if some gusts do pick up.
Meet CHUCK…Your Autopilot
The Parrot Disco’s autopilot is advanced, incorporating an array of sensors that allow it to guide each phase of the flight. Parrot calls the autopilot module the Control Hub & Universal Computer Kit or C.H.U.C.K. Sensors like a compass, an altimeter, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a GNSS global positioning module & a dual core CPU allow CHUCK the autopilot to always be in control when need be.
Takeoff preparation is as simple as activating a switch on the drone’s nose, then pressing the takeoff/landing button on the controller. Once the Disco is ready, the motor will spool up and you simply throw it in the air like a frisbee to launch it…seriously. You can toss it almost any which way you want and the drone will orient itself in the air, stabilize, and automatically climb to an altitude of 164 feet. Here the Disco will enter a holding pattern, circling about autonomously until it receives a command from you. Parrot calls this loiter mode.
Once in the air, C.H.U.C.K does a good job of keeping the Disco stable due to the software continuously varying the controls during flight. Pitch and roll are always stabilized via the autopilot and banking turns are a breeze. The roll is limited to a maximum angle of about 30-40 degrees, which prevents you from rolling it too hard and flipping it right over. The stall prevention feature is really nice too, as most beginner pilots don’t know to increase the throttle a bit during a banked turn to maintain altitude and prevent a stall at slow speeds. The Parrot’s autopilot takes care of this for you when you push the roll stick to the left or right.
Check out the current price of the Disco by clicking the image below.
Soar Through the Sky Like a Plane
In flight is where the Disco really shows off when compared to traditional multirotors. Perform steep climbs, large banked turns or just glide and check out the view. Dive down sharply, then pull back up and soar into the sky…try that with your quadcopter. Some models may be able to come close, but the bottom line is that the Parrot Disco with FPV provides a truly plane-like flight experience.
If at any time during your flight, things get a little hairy, you can simply tap the throttle stick to the left or right, and the Disco will re-enter loiter mode – circling about overhead until you’re ready to take control again. This is a nice feature that allows you to return to a comfort zone anytime your nerves desire some relief.
The Parrot Disco even uses a Pitot tube, just like real planes, to gather air velocity flow and pressure information. This info is sent to the onboard CPU, which it uses to adjust the output of the engine to ensure that lift is maintained. The stall prevention feature isn’t just for turns…it is active all the time which is something you’re bound to appreciate.
Basically, the direction, altitude and speed of the Disco are always automatically maintained thanks to the internal navigation system. This system is made up of the many sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer & altimeter) combined with Parrot’s GNSS module (GPS + GLONASS).
Best of Both Worlds for Global Positioning
The Parrot Disco’s GNSS module utilizes both the United States’ (GPS) & Russia’s (GLONASS) global positioning systems in tandem. This allows the drone to be pinpointed by a group of 55 satellites all across the globe (GPS systems utilize 31 sats and GLONASS uses 24). Neither of these systems provide a huge advantage when compared to the other, you get the real benefit when they’re used together. GLONASS does not have as much coverage as GPS, due to the lower number of satellites but it does offer higher position accuracy. These features allow the Parrot Disco to provide horizontal and vertical geofencing modes as well as return to home.
Automated Landings, But You’ll Need Some ROOM
Landing the Disco is a bit more tricky than takeoff and does require some practice. Grabbing it right out of the air would be cool, but you’ll need a large wide open space to perform a decent landing. Or should I say, to allow the Disco to land itself…because that’s exactly what it does.
You simply push a button on the controller to activate the landing mode once you’re on your final approach. You’ll want at least 600 feet or so of clear open space for the Disco to descend to around 25 feet before it reverses its thrust and attempts to land.
Disco does not have any obstacle avoidance technology so make sure the area is clear of trees or other obstructions. There is no landing gear on this drone, so the landing is basically a controlled crash. I would recommend flying the Disco in large open spaces with plenty of grass as it will not take kindly to skidding to a stop on concrete or gravel…grass is good!
The wings can break off during rough landings but one of the features I like the best about this drone is that they re-attach quite easily. The Parrot Disco does take crashes reasonably well. If things do happen to break, they are easily replaced – Parrot will send you new parts, you just need to contact them and order.
Full Manual Mode Available
If you’re an experienced pilot and you want to break free of C.H.U.C.K’s helping hand, Parrot does offer the ability to pair your own transmitter. Parrot does claim compatibility with most RC transmitters out there. This mode is promising for those of you that want a little more out of the Disco, and you’ll be free to push it to its limits; trying all sorts of acrobatics.
Parrot Disco With FPV, Introducing Parrot Cockpitglasses – Just Add A Smartphone!
Parrot created their own FPV headset for the Disco, to provide truly immersive flight. All it needs is a smartphone (iOS or Android) to stream live video from the 14 megapixel nose-mounted HD camera. The wide angle view of the headset provides a 90 degree field of view, more than enough to feel fully engrossed in the flight.
You can check Parrot’s website for a list of compatible phones, but generally speaking if your screen size is between 4.7 and 5.7 inches, with a phone thickness between 6 – 9.5 mm you should be OK.
For those of you new to FPV, the Disco is a good drone to start with. Since it can’t hover or move laterally, there’s less of a chance getting disoriented while wearing the headset. The drone is always moving forward, and the camera is mounted on the nose so the view you get is always from the front of the Disco and in the direction it’s travelling.
There is some latency (video delay) to deal with, about 250 ms. A quarter of a second doesn’t sound like a long time but when you’re expecting something to happen instantaneously it can be a little un-nerving until you’re used to it.
There are a few different FPV modes available on the Parrot Disco: a video only feed, a telemetry overlay feed with artificial horizon and a “radar” feed. The radar option displays the direction of the Disco relative to the controller. This is useful for keeping the transmitter pointed at the drone, ensuring a solid connection.
There is also a “direct view” function that allows you to see the Disco from the perspective of your smartphone’s camera, while wearing the headset.
Hold On Though, Doesn’t the FAA Restrict Outdoor FPV?
I should mention that if you’re flying the Disco in the U.S., the FAA currently has limits on FPV flying. Parrot does make note of it on their website, indicating that a co-pilot is required to fly the drone with the FPV headset. Per the FAA, someone that can take control of the aircraft is required to maintain a visual line of sight with it at all times during flight. This rule places a limitation on the theoretical range of the Disco, since its advertised range goes beyond visual line of sight with the unaided eye. So, you can still have your immersed FPV flight, you just need to bring a buddy to watch.
Skycontroller 2 – New and Much Improved Over the Original
The Disco comes with Parrot’s new and improved Skycontroller. This remote, utilizing Wi-Fi broadcast spectrum claims a 1.2 mile theoretical range. The Skycontroller 2 is looks like a traditional video game controller, with a MASSIVE Wi-Fi antenna on the top. During flight, it helps to keep the ginormous antenna oriented towards the Disco. This will help to maintain a good signal connection between drone and transmitter.
The controller has 2 sticks, set up in the traditional Mode 2 configuration with the throttle on the left and pitch/roll on the right. The Disco does not have a rudder so the left stick’s x-axis is set up to activate loiter mode. Push it to the right or left at any time to put the Disco back into loiter mode.
I mentioned some of the other buttons earlier, like the takeoff/landing button and the return to home button. The controller also has buttons for selecting the FPV modes as well as toggling the phone’s camera view on/off.
The smartphone is not an absolute must have to fly the Disco, but it definitely helps to have one even if you’re not using the FPV headset. A USB cable connects your smartphone to the Skycontroller and allows the phone to display telemetry data, Disco’s remaining battery life as well as providing an alternate streaming video view.
For those of you with a Bebop 2 drone, the Parrot FPV Pack is available for purchase seperately and includes the Cockpitglasses as well as the upgraded Skycontroller 2.
Parrot’s FreeFlight Pro Smartphone App
In order to interface your smartphone with the Skycontroller 2, it will need to have the FreeFlight Pro app installed. The app is listed for free on Google Play and the AppStore. There are other benefits in addition to the on screen info and video display listed above. FreeFlight Pro also allows you access to C.H.U.C.K the autopilot’s internal settings. Tailor flight parameters like speed, altitude and distance or use it to manage the Wi-Fi connection.
The geofencing comes with built in defaults for maximum range (1600 ft) and altitude (just under 500 ft), the app allows you to adjust these. I know that 500 feet is above the FAA’s limit for drones. You may want to edit it to 400 ft, if you want to play by the rules.
Parrot says the FreeFlight Pro app is compatible with other Parrot products, like the Bebop 2. I find that product compatibility is always nice with things like this, it really makes it more convenient.
Want Full Autonomous Waypoint Flight? Get the Flight Plan Extension
Sadly, this option is not included with the purchase of a Parrot Disco. You’ll have to shell out an extra 20 bucks for an in-app purchase in order to get the functionality. If you would rather pilot the Disco all the time, I would say this option isn’t worth it. If you want to send your Disco on autonomous missions complete with landing, then the extra money is probably well spent. Let’s face it, compared to the overall price of the Disco it’s a drop in the bucket. Although I still think it should have been included.
Pros, Cons and Conclusion
First up, the cons.
This is not a drone you can fly around in your neighborhood. You really need to be in a remote area to enjoy the Parrot Disco. The drone needs A LOT of room to fly and to land successfully.
Landing takes some practice getting used to…you may be faced with re-attaching the wings from time to time.
The drone can’t hover or move laterally, like a traditional multirotor – it’s always moving forward. Those familiar with the controls on the DJI Phantom line of drones might miss the safety net of simply letting go of the controls to regain your bearings. The ability to stop and hover, while re-assuring, is not possible with the Disco.
The Price. The Disco is not cheap. That’s for sure. I would put it somewhere between a DJI Phantom 3 Pro and a DJI Inspire. Clearly, there are TONS of options out there for that kind of cash – but I do have to say that very few of them offer an experience like the Disco.
The Parrot Disco is very lightweight, but also strong. It can take crashes a lot better than its quad rotor counterparts.
C.H.U.C.K the autopilot provides an awesome experience for first time fixed-wing flyers. Many of the nuances of traditional flight are taken care of behind the scenes. This allows you to focus more on the fun you’re having.
FPV included! Need I say more?
Much improved photo and video quality thanks to Parrot’s upgraded software used for image processing.
Easy, simple assembly thanks to a basic design and few moving parts.
Fun factor. I don’t know about you, but I find the notion of flying a plane a lot more fun that flying a helicopter. The Disco offers a much more exhilarating flight experience than traditional drones. At the same time, it incorporates technology that makes it easier to fly for beginners.
Is It Worth the Money?
All in all, the Parrot Disco with FPV is a feature packed fixed-wing drone that offers long flight times and a fun user experience. The question is, for the money is it all worth it? I would say yes, and there are a few reasons why I think so. I do admit the price is a little steep, but I don’t think it’s un-reasonable.
The new Skycontroller is much improved over the last one. A nice overall layout and the massive Wi-Fi antenna show that Parrot put the effort into updating this controller to provide a better user experience.
The Disco comes with everything you need for FPV, except the smartphone. For a lot of people, especially FPV beginners, sorting out everything you need for a good FPV setup on an existing drone can be intimidating. Which transmitter and receiver will I need? Do I need a dedicated camera? Should I use goggles, or a monitor to display the video feed? With the Disco, all of it is taken care of and all included. Simply download the app, install your phone in the headset and you’re good to go!
Disco’s advance autopilot is another huge selling point in my opinion. Basically all of the inputs you give it while it’s in the air are “filtered” by C.H.U.C.K. to keep the drone nice and stable. Roll the right stick a little too far while banking? No problem, the Disco’s limit kicks in and ensures the angle doesn’t get too steep.
Last but not least, the durability of the Disco is another reason why I think the price is justified. Sure you can find good multirotors out there for a lot less money. But they are by no means as forgiving as the Disco when those inevitable first time crashes occur. The Disco will probably live to fly another day while some others may not be so lucky.
RC pilots with years and years of experience may expect a little more out of their aircraft for the money. However, I think beginner fixed-wing enthusiasts will find the Parrot Disco to be a reasonable buy considering the ease of use, the exciting flight characteristics and all of the features that are included.
Shop the Parrot Disco using the link below and immerse yourself in flight.