WWJ Newsradio 950 was invaded by aircraft Tuesday. Luckily, their intentions were friendly.
Parrot, the French manufacturer of phone and auto electronics with its United States headquarters in Southfield, stopped by the station Tuesday with its latest product, the AR.drone.
It’s a quadricopter — a helicopter with four propellers that extend from a central core.
Yes, it’s a toy, but a very sophisticated one, with a price tag ($299) to match.
The AR.drone is controlled by an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, through a free application available for download at the Apple App Store.
The application translates the accelerometer in the Apple devices into commands to move left, right, forward and backward. Altitude is controlled by a thumb slider on the Apple screen. There’s also a very handy landing button — press it and the AR.drone will land safely on any flat surface directly below where it’s hovering.
The AR.drone also features a front-facing video camera, a downward-facing video camera, and ultrasound sensors that keep it from getting too close to the ground once it’s flying.
The cameras automatically stream live video from the AR.drone to the Apple screen, giving you a literal bird’s eye view from the copter.
Coolest of all, there’s also an AR.drone shooter game you can download, allowing you to have mock dogfights with another AR.drone.
Christian Coly, vice president of sales and marketing at Parrot’s Southfield office, said the AR.drone was created “to take advantage of our expertise with Apple products and wireless connectivity. Most of Parrot’s products are automotive or entertainment, but the common denominator is wireless connectivity, WiFi and Bluetooth.”
Coly said an open-source software development kit is now available, meaning apps may be available soon that control the AR.drone from Android and BlackBerry phones and other devices.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what the developer community will come up with,” Coly said.
The AR.drone was first demonstrated at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. It went on sale Sept. 3 at a few Brookstone stores, along with Amazon.com and ParrotShopping.com. It went national Sept. 21.
Coly said Parrot has been working on the AR.drone project for four years.
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