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Parrot's first-generation AR.Drone has proven to be (along with quad-rotors from other companies such as Ascending Technologies) a popular platform for implementing autonomous flight and other embedded vision algorithms in both hobbyist and academic research settings. Check out, for example, the following video:

Key to the device's market success, among other factors, is its reasonably affordable sub-$300 price tag. It also includes integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, along with an open source software stack that simplifies the interface to it from a computer, tablet, cell phone or other remote control terminal. And let's not forget about the device's two embedded cameras; VGA-resolution with a 93-degree wide-angle lens and 15 fps video capture capabilities for the front-view unit, and QVGA-resolution with a 64-degree diagonal lens, horizontal stabilization and 60 fps video capture for the vertical-view (underside-mounted) unit.

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show, Parrot unveiled the second-generation upgrade to the platform. AR.Drone 2.0 will go on sale in the second quarter of this year with a $299 MSRP identical to that of its predecessor. One notable upgrade is the front video camera feature set up-tick to 1280×720 pixel (i.e. 720p) resolution at 30 fps (92-degree angle of view). AR.Drone.2.0 also augments the first-generation sensor assortment with a pressure sensor (i.e. barometer, i.e. altimeter)…the 3-axis magnetometer (i.e. compass) also seems to be new, although it isn't explicitly called out as such in the press release, and the separate 2-axis and 1-axis-yaw gyroscopes also seem to have been combined into a single 3-axis MEMS unit.

The press release isn't seemingly yet up on Parrot's site, but you can find a copy of it on the AR Drone Flyers website. Start saving your pennies, flying robot fans…

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