Australian Review: Rolling Spider MiniDrone - Airborne Chaos
By Alex Choros
The Rolling Spider is the second of Parrot's two new recently released MiniDrones. While it's companion, the Jumping Sumo, is a whole new style of drone, the Rolling Spider is a smaller, more affordable take of the flying drones that Parrot has come to be known for.
Aesthetically, the Rolling Spider is very similar to Parrot's other drones, but with a little bit more personality. Parrot have made uses of a similar four propeller body, but eschewed dark colour schemes for a choice of bright red or blue. But despite sharing more than a few characteristics with Parrot's flagship drones, the Rolling Spider has a few unique features of its own. The biggest addition to the frisky flyer is a set of optional wheels that give the drone the ability roll around on either the floor or ceiling.
Unsurprisingly, the Rolling Spider weighs nothing at all, but he plastic body feels quite solid. This is not the case with the wheels, axel and propellers. Both wheels snapped off in crashing landings in my first day with the drone. The first one broke after a fall from about three metres, whereas the second one broke after a metre drop (when we were seeing if we could fix the first one). Thankfully, replacements parts can be purchased for all of the Rolling Spider's components, and I'd advise picking some up from the get go.
The Rolling Spider has a removable battery that charges via a micro USB port on the back of the robot. Unfortunately there's no external battery charger, meaning batteries can't be hot swapped.
The Rolling Spider can be controlled using any Bluetooth 4.0 enabled smart-device. Most devices released in the last two years have Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, but notable exceptions include the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. Parrot has provided a full compatibility list on their website.
The Rolling Spider strips down the drone experience to the bare essentials. While there's a basic camera for taking "aerial selfies", there's no video, no GPS and no augmented reality. Fortunately, the flying experience is almost rock solid.
As with the Jumping Sumo, the Rolling Spider is controlled by Parrot's FreeFlight 3 app. Again, the app's performance is better on iOS devices, but the Android version didn't seem to disconnect as much when controlling the Rolling Spider when compared to the Jumping Sumo.
Piloting the Rolling Spider isn't entirely natural at first, but the app provides three different piloting settings. We found "joypad" the easiest to use, where one virtual thumb stick controls the drone's elevation, and another controls its direction. After getting the hang of it, I still felt like I was only 75% in control; but at the same time, this kind of adds to the fun / mayhem.
The Rolling Spider can reach speeds of up to 18 kilometres per hour, reach heights of 10 metres and can travel roughly 20 metres away from your smart device. In addition, the drone has a few tricks up its sleeve including the ability to do rolls and somersaults. The Rolling Spider is appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use.
The biggest issue with the Rolling Spider is its battery life. On average, we were only getting 6 to 8 minutes of fight time per 90 minute recharge. This really isn't enough; by the time you've started getting into the swing of things, the battery is already dead.
Parrot's Rolling Spider MiniDrone is a really fun toy; I can't imagine anyone not enjoying its chaotic flying experience. Priced at AUD$139, it's cheaper than the Jumping Sumo, but also a bit more restrictive due to the super short battery life. But if you can look past the battery life, the Rolling Spider is a decent entry-level drone that can crack more than its fair share of smiles.
Cybershack Score -
|Grin-inducing fun||Fragile parts|
|Affordable price||Short battery life|