For this holiday season, Parrot’s popular AR Drone received two new siblings: the Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider. Parrot’s new Mini-Drones don’t have all the features of their big brother, but they hit a very different sweet spot, once held by RC cars and model trains.
When most people think of drones, a quadcopter comes to mind, but neither of the Mini-Drones fit that category exactly. The closest to a traditional drone is the Rolling Spider, but with the included 7-inch diameter detachable wheels, it becomes something entirely different.
In theory the wheels are designed to add extra mobility. Instead, they end up serving the more important purpose of stopping the mini-drone from crashing into the walls and ceiling, which it will do often. The Rolling Spider’s biggest drawback comes from its light weight. Outside tests in our company parking lot ended in near crashes with parked cars with nothing but a slight breeze carrying the Spider in unplanned directions. With a disproportionately large buzz and lack of solid control, the Rolling Spider seems designed to annoy little sisters, and if that’s your goal, it works perfectly.
On the flip side, the Jumping Sumo controls smoothly and feels like the family’s pet droid. Nothing was more fun than rolling around the office, using only the built-in camera as my guide, and surprising coworkers with its three foot high jump.
The cheaper of the two, the Sumo has more bang for the buck. Its battery life lasts longer, it’s easier to learn, and it has a better build quality. If you’re still trying to annoy that little sister, fret not: This drone makes lots of noise. The Sumo features three different sound sets, which can be muted if necessary.
Both mini-drones can record video, but require a not-so-common flash drive with a Micro-USB connector. Only one version was available at our local computer electronics store, and it had to be hacked together to fit. Ordering the right one ahead of time online can save a lot of anguish.
Overall, the Sumo makes for a fun toy with hours of enjoyment right out of the box, but the Rolling Spider feels like it wasn’t finished. It seems like it’s the result of a dare to get a set of features under $200, and the result leaves a lot to be desired. In this battle, land wins over air.