The Parrot Mambo Drone Is Extremely Addictive

Parrot's Mambo mini-drone is aimed at children, but with its user-friendliness, out-the-box ready-to-fly attitude, design and flight capabilities, we're sold.

Marco Margaritoff

Believe it or not, I’ve never personally owned a drone I fell in love with—until now. I’ve made it a point to familiarize myself with a wide array of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in order to most effectively write about them. I’ve played around with my friend’s DJI Mavic and was immediately hooked. My mother bought me an entry-level drone for Christmas last year, and that was used to terrorize her throughout our house all winter break. I’ve had my share of fun, piloting various drones around the skies, but I’ve never owned one myself that I couldn’t wait to use again. 

Parrot’s Mambo drone is most definitely that—a drone that essentially comes out of the box ready to take off. Included in the $149 bundle is the drone—which sports four rotors—a grabber and a cannon with six shot capacity. The cannon is a mini-ball launcher and comes with 50 little pellets that remind of BB gun ammo. These are the little addendums to the UAV which may excite the younger crowd. Think LEGO fans rather than tech-geeks. It’s fun to shoot a pellet or two at your unsuspecting brother who’s trying to finish his work on the computer in the kitchen, but once that’s done, there really isn’t much there for adults. The grabber, too, works well and as advertised, but it’s not what we’re really here for. What we are here for, and what is most interesting for adults, are the Mambo’s flight capabilities, the ability to take photographs, and how one interfaces with the device itself.

Marco Margaritoff

Parrot's Mambo drone in the palm of my hand.

To be frank and transparent, this device came bundled with two elements: the Mambo drone, and a six-month Tynker subscription. The latter affords one the ability to sign into the game-based company’s services which allow one to code and program various commands for the drone. This is really cool stuff, but unfortunately, as an iPad-less consumer, I have yet to dive into this part of the package. However, I can say, as a substitute teacher who taught children how to program LEGO robotics to overcome various obstacle courses for an entire semester, that kids at a young age get it. Show them the limits, the rules, and the desired end goal—and they’ll figure it out. It’s great to see a company like Tynker actually engage in this aspect, and include teaching kids how to analytically engage with these devices into their product. 

According to Tynker’s press release, the company “teaches over 50 million kids how to code.” Thankfully, I’ll have an iPad at my disposal in the next week or so, which is when I’ll get to add to that number and extensively dive into programming this little guy.

Now, as for the experience of operating the Mambo itself—it’s incredibly easy and a whole lot of fun. Once you’ve downloaded Parrot’s app (of which there are iOS and Android versions), you simply insert one of the three afforded batteries into the Mambo, turn your Bluetooth on, and press “Take Off” on your app. The drone then lifts off vertically, whirring in space, waiting for you to take control. The app has you hold your phone sideways and serves as a virtual game controller. Of course, there is a physical controller available to purchase, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. What I have experienced is that within a few minutes, you’re piloting this thing with a fair amount of ease and control. I’m able to fly through the living room without bumping into things now, around corners and under tables. 

If you do encounter a collision, though, don’t worry—the Mambo has a bumper for each rotor, protecting its integral hardware from structural damage. Feel free to make mistakes! How do you land this thing once you’ve had enough? Just press “Land” in the same spot on-screen where the “Take Off” command was earlier, and the Mambo will lower itself to the ground, sensing when to shut its motor off, landing perfectly. 

Marco Margaritoff

The Parrot app, in the drone selection menu.

Marco Margaritoff

The Parrot app—your virtual controller.

Tynker co-founder and CTO, Srinivas Mandyam, said, “We’ve seen an overwhelming interest in drones among kids and parents and are excited to deepen our partnership with Parrot to unveil a comprehensive, out-of-the-box experience that inspires the next generation through game-based learning.” 

We here at The Drive / Aerial couldn’t agree more with the sentiment behind that statement, and personally, the Mambo has won me over quite quickly regarding its user-friendly state. Of course, using Tynker’s coding services will most probably do an even greater job at that. Tynker’s main focus is easy input for complex output—meaning that the “18 online coding courses, over 350 puzzle levels, more than 100 tutorials, and a virtual drone flight simulation course” are designed to easily convey goals to kids while allowing them to program complex results. 

I can’t wait to delve deeper into this and develop a far more interactive relationship with my Mambo and its capabilities. “We are committed to helping kids become makers and doers, teaching them how to code while encouraging them to see their code in action, or in this case ‘in flight’,” said Mandyam. This is aimed at kids aged 7-14, but you know what? Count me in.

Regarding the lessons available through Tynker’s service, according to the press release, they’re comprised of the following: programming a flight path from start to finish; building a drone controller that pilots the UAV in real-time; programming flips and turns, as well as loops and other variables to create geometric flight patterns; coding actual games (like ‘Flappy Drone’); drone racing, of course; taking photographs to share with friends. 

The Head of Parrot Education, Jérôme Bouvard, explained that it is exactly this kind of approach that helps educate children about problem-solving and adding tools now for their future skill-sets. “Drones and robotics will create jobs in the coming years, and it is important for people to understand this technology now. Today, we are giving kids and students access and experience with this drone technology. We are very pleased with the collaboration with Tynker, which helps in raising overall drone knowledge, spreading the message that drones are super fun, and highlighting the useful, positive applications for drone technology.”

Marco Margaritoff

Parrot's Mambo, ready to fly out-the-box.

If you’re an entry-level drone user such as myself, I couldn’t recommend the Parrot Mambo more highly. I’d suggest getting the Parrot Mambo Code bundle which comes with the Tynker subscription, but again, I have yet to experience their coding and programming lessons for myself. On all accounts, they’re quite popular and have taught kids a lot. For $149, which gives you a bundled savings of almost $50, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong. The drone flies beautifully, is easy to operate, and comes with everything you’d need to give you a satisfying, fun, rewarding experience. At the very least, you can zip around the garden, or your living room, and shoot pellets at unsuspecting family members, while taking photographs of their surprised faces. Thanks, Parrot.

Parrot was founded in 1994 by Henri Seydoux. They produce and develop wireless products for consumers and professionals, focusing on three primary markets: civil drones (recreational UAVs with professional needs), connected objects (focusing on audio and gardening), and the automotive (producing the most extensive range of wireless communication and ‘infotainment’ systems for vehicles on the consumer market. Parrot is headquartered in Paris, France. 

Tynker is an award-winning computing platform used by a third of U.S. K-8 schools, teaching more than 50 million children in over 200 countries how to program. It was founded by a group of tech entrepreneurs interested in giving kids at a young age the tools and skill-sets they’ll need in the future. Tynker has partnered with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, iDTech, Mattel, PBS, and Sylvan Learning.