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Parrot unveils the Bebop 2, a faster, longer-lasting drone

Is it a toy or a tool?

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Parrot unveiled a new version of its popular Bebop drone on Tuesday, capable of longer flight times and faster speeds. On the whole, however, it doesn't seem like a gigantic leap forward for the French company's higher-end consumer drone. Parrot, which is known for its growing lineup of toy drones, stuck with a 14-megapixel camera for the Bebop 2 that tops out at 1080p resolution video. The 180-degree fisheye lens also remains on the nose of the drone, a precarious placement for an aircraft that regularly crashes into walls and trees.

The optional external flight controller still extends range to 2 kilometers, as promised with the last version (though not always delivered, in The Verge's assessment). Parrot said the upgraded Bebop does address some of the connectivity issues that plagued the last version, but didn't provide much additional detail.

Until reviewers get more flight time, it's hard to say how much more capable the new Bebop is

During a press event in San Francisco, chief executive Henri Seydoux said the company stripped out weight and moving parts from the Bebop 2 by leaning on software. That includes digital image stabilization, although professional photographers and film makers will question whether software can deliver the same smooth footage as the hardware gimbal favored by competitors, notably as in DJI's dominant Phantom series.

Parrot says it improved the Bebop's battery life substantially, from 12 minutes of flight time to 25, although we didn’t get to test that claim during our brief time with it. In addition, the original version secured the battery with a Velcro strap, a design that often allowed it to come loose. The new battery compartment seems considerably more secure.

The reduction in moving parts also promises to make the product more rugged, capable of withstanding more crashes. Which is good since, during my 5-to-10-minute hands-on test, I managed to steer into two walls and came a little closer than I intended (I swear!) to several rival reporters.

Once an engineer tweaked the settings a bit, and I got used to the software controls on the iOS app, the Bebop became easier to navigate. But until reviewers get more flight time, it's hard to say just how much more capable the new Bebop really is.

Attacking the drone market across the price spectrum

The Bebop 2 will be available on December 14th, starting at $549.99 or $799.99 with the Parrot Skycontroller Black Edition, the external flight controller that promises to extend Wi-Fi flight range by 6,561 feet.

With the latest announcement, Parrot continues to attack the drone market across the price spectrum, widening its lineup of toy drones while also operating commercial subsidiaries, including senseFly, Pix4D, and Airinov. In July, the company announced plans to spin out its drone businesses as a separate subsidiary.

Parrot’s drone revenue rose 60 percent from the previous year in the third quarter, with 87 percent of sales coming from consumer drones like the Bebop and Minidrones. The company recently signed retail agreements with Target and AT&T that are poised to further drive sales, especially with a new drone ready just in time for the holiday shopping season.