Parrot Bebop 1 Drone Review
Welcome to the Parrot Bebop 1 review.
Its review time for the Parrot Bebop 1, although it’s been out quite a while now and I was reluctant to even go near it following a brief demo of the A.R. drone from a friend which didn’t impress me, but I succumbed to persuasion and here I am writing it.
With the release of the Bebop 2, the price has dropped dramatically and I was able to pick one up from our local retailer (UK) for £249.99. Still pricey I thought, given that the DJI standard is hovering between the £350-£400 price range, but for those without a large budget (myself included) it certainly provides a good starting point for those looking to up their game within the Drone hobby field.
The first thing I noticed as I opened the box was that the front portion of the shell is actually polystyrene, (you know that material that we used to rub against concrete walls when we were kids to pretend it was snow?) and I immediately thought to myself ‘this is going to be light’, which isn’t really ideal from a flying and control point of view…
Never the less when I picked it up it actually felt quite sturdy despite the material, and was impressed that within the box we had 2 batteries, spare props and side protectors for indoor flying. You also get a little tool to remove the props, as well as a lens cover for the camera to prevent the lens being scratched.
The box states it can be flown via the Free Flight app which is downloaded to either an Apple or Android device. It can also be flown with the Sky Controller which is just as expensive as the drone, but provides the pilot with the natural feel of the controller sticks, and enhances the wifi range considerably.
However, given that the price hike would put us into DJI territory I decided to review the drone just using the app and with my Samsung mobile phone.
So, I’ve read all the instructions (not many), charged the batteries, installed the app, switched on the drone, allowed it to go through its pre-checks (you can hear each of the motors moving slightly) and then went into my settings within the phone to the WIFI menu, and attempted to connect to the drone WIFI network….nothing there.
I checked everything again, reset the drone, reset the phone…still nothing. So I uninstall the app, hard reset the drone (done by holding in button for around 14 seconds) reinstalled the app, back to WIFI settings….nothing. I then change phones (at the moment I’m using a Samsung J5) to an iPhone 6, install the app, into settings…..nothing. No matter what I try I cannot for the life of me get the WIFI signal from the drone.
I check a few forums and groups, and I’m advised to return it to the store. I’m obviously disappointed, both with the drone not working and my inability to solve the issue myself.
I return the drone to the retailer, get my replacement, and begin again….
Into WIFI I go, and…… connection straight away!. I begin to feel a little better about my inability to solve the issue, and come to the conclusion there must have been a fault with the drone.
You are encouraged to immediately update the drones firmware since any issues that have occurred previously should be resolved with the updates. I install it, and then head out to the local field to fly it, very excited at this point.
I fly it around the field for about 8 minutes (it was all the battery had, however I sometimes fly aggressively) and then get bored, and so head home to charge my battery (even though I have another charged), and whilst I’m waiting I have a look through the app and am eager to try the flight plan feature, but am a little annoyed to discover it’s an additional purchase at cost (£15 I think).
I shrug it off and purchase it, and after a short time my other battery is ready, I’m off to try this out.
Back to the same field, (I’ve flown here hundreds of times with my DJI and F450 with Naza V2) and start attempting to get the required GPS signal which is mandatory (DUH!) for use with the app. I can’t get a GPS signal!!.
I fly it for a few minutes, let it sit a few minutes, and continue this throughout the life of the 2 batteries and I cannot get a GPS signal. I head home, recharge, and go to another field where I always get around 14 satellites with my F450….nothing.
I contact Parrot via their blog, and others have told me of an ongoing issue following the latest update, which affects the drones ability to get a GPS lock. I am advised to start the drone up, and let it sit outside for a while as it may take some time. After 4 batteries being used, with a mixture of it flying for a while and then sitting, I am beaten….again!.
I head back to the retailer, but have to drive an additional 50 miles to the nearest store which has a replacement. I tell them what happened, and explain this is last chance saloon with this drone as this is my second return!.
So back home, batteries recharged, go through the usual checks, out to the first field I tried and after a few moments I get the long awaited green GPS signal….RESULT!.
I fly it calmly, and don’t put it too far out, as the whole touch screen navigation is new to me (used to my FlySky) but manage to at least give the RTH (Return To Home) feature a few go’s and am actually starting to enjoy it!.
So I go into the Flight Plan, which is pretty awesome I must admit. I set the drone to fly up to 30 metres, and draw a small square of no more than 50 meters away. I press the button, and am pleasantly surprised as it auto pilots around this albeit small area.
Bebop 1 Drone Review Flight Plan Example Image
I then up the distance, up to 80 metres by 80 metres, press the button to send it on its way and am horrified by what happens next.
As soon as I press the button I know something isn’t quite right. It takes of normally, but then jerked into the complete opposite way as it was supposed to (was supposed to go West). At first I think it’s just moving out to begin its ascent to the desired height, but it rises to about 50 meters in an Easterly diagonal direction.
I immediately press the RTH function….nothing; it doesn’t even make any difference. I exit the flight plan and press the land button….nothing. I am then hit with the horrid realisation that I’m going to have to press the emergency button and watch it tumble from a height…..but it doesn’t do anything!.
At this point I’m watching the drone get further and further away, and am running like an idiot after it, but it’s really shifting!. Seconds later, I look at the screen and the WIFI is disconnected and the app is attempting to connect with the Bebop….that was the last I seen it!
Now this is where the power of forums and hobby groups come into play. After speaking with a few members, I am encouraged to contact Parrot as apparently this had happened before, and given I can’t return to the store with nothing, I have no option.
Communication with Parrot
I won’t go into too much detail, but after having to get serial numbers, pictures of my drones, pictures of my receipt, pictures of the receipt next to a piece of paper with my email address, and all the other stats they wanted, days later I was sent through paperwork with shipping details on. I was to print them out, return the box with its remaining contents, and send them off to Parrot in France.
The Parrot Bebop 1 Drone Review Free Flight Stats
I did so, and received an email 2 days later saying they had received it with thanks, and that they would be looking at it to attempt to discover the problem. This actually pissed me off if I’m honest. What details are you going to get from an empty box I asked?
Pictured is the empty box which, according to Parrot, would unearth the secrets behind the Parrot Bebop drone flying away during Flight Plan
Following that question, I was then sent an email saying that Parrot were going to send me a replacement, and I would get confirmation within 24-48 hours of when it was to be dispatched.
I was impressed. The customer service at this point was really good, or was I more pleased with the realisation that I hadn’t watched £249.99 fly away from me?.
Anyway 2 days later no email. I had planned to call after I returned from work, but was taken aback when I returned home to find a parcel from France, and indeed a new drone!.
I wasted no time in getting outside and flying again. I couldn’t believe it when the same problem with the GPS returned! No matter what I tried I couldn’t get GPS and not only that, the information from the Free Flight App suggested that I didn’t even have GPS at all, as there was no GPS version listed!.
By this time as I’m sure you can understand, I’m bloody furious, and the customer service this time fell flat on its face. The first rep suggested I take it back to place of purchase, and even after I explained that I had contacted the retailer and they had stated that they couldn’t accept it as it wasn’t the drone they sold me, she continued to be extremely unhelpful. She asked had I hard reset the drone, and when I told her of course I have, a total of 16 times, she laughed uncontrollably down the phone for what seemed like the longest 7 seconds of my life.
I then asked to speak to her manager, and she asked me what the problem was. When I told her it was extremely rude to laugh at my problem and that I believed I wasn’t being given appropriate customer service, she actually REFUSED to put me through. We sat in silence for what seemed like an age, and finally I had to hang up and ring back, and managed to get someone else.
Again I explained everything that had happened, but this time I REFUSED to get off the phone until I had spoken to a manager. I eventually got one, whose name was Matthew and it was a breath of fresh air to speak to someone who genuinely not only understood my problem, but understood the dissatisfaction that must have been oozing from every pore of my body. I was offered a replacement and said OK, then immediately corrected myself and said no.
Why would I want ANOTHER dud i asked?, and went on to explain that now I was stuck with this product as I couldn’t even get a refund anymore. I wasn’t happy with the product, especially as this would have been my 5th had I accepted. I said in an off the cuff remark, that I believed I should be given an upgrade….FREE!. Mathew explained he would make the request on my behalf and contact me when he knew the answer.
The next day, I get a phone call and true to his word he had sought authorisation for a free upgrade, and it had been granted! A new Bebop 2 is on its way!
Update 04/06/2016: So I received my email on Monday (30th May), to inform me that my Bebop 2 Free Upgrade would be dispatched within 24-48 hours. Now, when I had been waiting on the replacement from Parrot, I received the same email stating it would be dispatched within 24-48 hours, and that I would receive my tracking code afterwards (as stated earlier), but actually received the drone before i received the tracking number!.
I received the email first thing Monday Morning, but it was Bank Holiday here (UK) and so i couldn’t phone and speak to Parrot, but instead I replied to the email saying thank you and please remember its a Bebop 2, not a Bebop 1. On Tuesday morning i call and am assured it is in actual fact, on its way. I wait until Wednesday afternoon and give them a quick call just to make sure everything is OK, and am gutted to be told the email was sent in error, the Drone is actually still in France, and would be dispatched that day!.
Thursday Morning arrives, and I finally receive my tracking details and when I check the location, its says its still in Paris!. I don’t bother calling or emailing and just wait for the update from the courier. Friday morning arrives, I receive an email to say the parcel will be delivered within an hour!….Very much excited!.
I arrange to leave work a bit earlier to ensure I don’t miss the delivery. The parcel arrives at 11am and I immediately grab the scissors and get tore in the box. I open the outside box, and my heart sinks when I pull back the lid to reveal the Bebop 1 Box!!…I convince myself that perhaps they have put the drone in the wrong box? (scraping the barrel here), but my fears are confirmed when I open it an sure enough the piece of garbage i’ve had so much trouble with is staring back at me, worse still, when I lift it out the box, the small circular piece of plastic which is stuck around the camera is hanging off!!.
I’ll leave out the expletives…but you can imagine how I’m feeling right now. I gently move the box with my foot (lol), and immediately get on the phone to Parrot. I ask to speak to Mathiou, the manager who has been working with my case and got me the upgrade, and even he is dissapointed with my news, but explains that from a Tech Support point of view, they have done all they can. I’ll leave out further expletives, but he really did understand my frustrations and promised to take this to the highest level within the After Care Team.
After Care Team: I’m given a number 0033 148 063060, and am told to press option 2 for english. I call the number, press 2 for english, and am transferred back to the TECH SUPPORT!! AAARRRGGHHH!!!!!!
I ask to speak again to the manger Mathiou, (who by now is impressing me by taking my calls lol) and explain the number problem. I ask to be transferred, but Tech Support and After Care Team are in different locations I’m told, and therefore can’t be transferred ( I would have thought having that capability was paramount!). I am assured by Mathiou that he has contacted the manager called Lorou? and that he is awaiting an answer.
At 4pm, i have a missed call from France. I call back and speak to Mathiou who informs me that normal procedure would be for me to await the return paperwork, and once received I’d return the parcel..HOWEVER, my case apparently has went directly to the top and I’m told that a Bebop 2 is on its way and I will be asked to return the Bebop 1 at a later date. I thank Mathiou again for his help, but explain i’ll keep my excitement contained due to previous events….
I received the email informing me my Bebop 2 would be dispatched on Monday 06/06/2016, but there may be a delay due to fuel issues within France.
Well, I’ve been made to eat my words!. Didn’t receive the tracking info as promised, but it turns out the product was out of stock. I call to express my dissapointment, and not only am I upgraded to a Bebop 2…they throw in a Black Edition Sky Controller for the trouble!. Would DJI do this I ask myself?
I immediately try the BB1 with the Sky Controller, and as i said im eating my words. Its such as contrast between using the Sky Controller and using my phone. The entire flying experience is dramatically improved, range, performance and enjoyability. I’m instantly hooked, and everything I’ve experienced with Parrot thus far is forgotten. Yes I’ve went through a few drones, some bad luck thrown in to the bargain, but for a company to turn around and GIVE THIS to me for FREE is I believe unrivaled.
Conclusion (Finally lol)
I don’t think any explanation is need really is it? However I have to be fair….
- Very compact, easy to transport
- Quite fast
- Can be controlled via phone/tablet.
- Amazing camera stability when flying! The built in gimbal really does the job well
- Customer Service came through, time and time again.
- Wifi Signal Loss: Loses WIFI signal even at short distances of 30m, and was tried with several devices in several different locations. But no problems with the Sky Controller
- Issue Once Landed: Several times when I pressed the land button, it would land but the propellers would continue spinning at high speed. This led to an instance of it rearing up on its hind ‘legs’ like a bloody horse, which then makes the rear props hit the ground, and gives an error requiring a restart, and if this had occurred on concrete would have required replacement props.
- Battery: Battery doesn’t fit properly, and rather than go back to the drawing board and address the issue, parrot applies a band aid fix of using a Velcro strap…seriously a Velcro strap? And they try to gloss over it with a branded strap!.
- Battery charger: After looking on the forums, I had to chuckle at this as the image of people trying to remedy this with a rubix cube type philosophy did make me laugh. The way the charger plugs in means that the battery can and does fall out whilst charging. There is a way to rectify it (shown below) and just requires taking a screw out, turning the plug and replacing screw.
- Camera: The box and online reviews would have you believe this is a really good camera given it’s a 14 megapixel. The Bebop uses a fish eye lens though and although gives a wider range of view I admit I wasn’t impressed with it all. The light has to be just right in order to get the full potential of the camera, and the finer detail remains blurred at times.
- Landing Feet: The small circular pieces of rubber fit into the bottom of the drones ‘feet’ and come off so easily you don’t even notice.
I’d avoid unless you have the Sky Controller, simple as that. I spent more time on the phone, emailing and problem solving with the Parrot Bebop 1 than I did flying it at first, but once I had the Sky Controller it changed everything.
The customer service really sold it for me. Yes the DJI probably has a better camera and other features, and although I can’t say for certain how DJI would react to the above issues, PARROT are to be commended for their after sales support.
You’ve converted me Parrot!