Mambo FPV: A Solid Upgrade From its Predecessor
Parrot's 2017 Mambo drone could shoot pellets and claw at things. Its upgrade, Mambo FPV is a first-person-capable model.
The first month of the year isn't even over and we've got a new drone review ready. Today we'll be having a look at Parrot's new Mambo FPV drone, which serves as an entry-level option for those curious about both unmanned aerial vehicles and first-person viewing experiences. This thing is new, fun, and affordable, but is it worth it?
The very first drone I flew and owned was Parrot’s Mambo. It's a small quadcopter that’s user-friendly and intuitive enough to successfully introduce even the youngest novices to the world of drones. I found myself hooked on having an unmanned aerial vehicle on standby, sitting on the living room table, always ready to be piloted above the house, through the house, up and down the hallways. Since then, I’ve flown a DJI Mavic, Parrot’s Bebop 2 Power, and countless mini-quadcopters, in my earnest attempts to become the go-to drone guy in my personal and professional life. It’s only fitting, then, that I return to the drone that first introduced me to the world of recreational unmanned aerial flight. This time, however, it’s an updated, far more engaging model. If the original Mambo drone, with its grappling claw and cannon attachments, was a bit too toy-like and childish for you, this refined, more adult-oriented model might interest you. Meet the Mambo FPV.
The most exciting update to the Mambo here is the detachable camera, and the ability to stream its content straight to your phone (via the freely available FreeFlight Mini app). The complete Mambo FPV package contains a pair of Parrot Cockpitglasses 2, identical to those included with the Bebop 2 Power FPV drone. As someone who's always thrilled to get an aerial first-person experience, this is definitely the "killer app" so to speak, for this upgraded model. Gone are the claw and grabber attachments (although they can still be attached here without a problem), in favor of a camera that can record 720p video to an onboard MicroSD card. While this footage is unfortunately only streamed to your phone in a 640 x 480 VGA capacity, the quality works well enough for the Cockpitglasses experience, which is an imperfect FPV experience, anyway. But more on that later.
Parrot does an acceptable job of allowing the experience to begin soon after unpacking. Since I’m a gadget user from the '90s, the urge to charge every electronic item before use is something I’m not only used to but a part of the ritual I engage in no matter how unnecessary. For those of you far less patient than me, charging the Flypad controller takes about two full hours. That’s some serious buffer time for most, but then again, upon completing this initial charge, it’ll provide you with six hours of uninterrupted use. The weighing of pros and cons begins.
Experiencing Mambo FPV's Flight
When it comes to intuitive handling, Parrot's Flypad and the pre-set physics sensitivities are solid. If you're a gamer, you'll easily adapt to the responsiveness of the joysticks, and quickly get used to capably controlling your drone. The process for takeoff is simple: power up the drone, connect your Flypad to it via Bluetooth and push the aptly named "take off" button. For those only beginning to pilot UAVs, it may be wise to leave the FPV experience out until you've ensured a firm grasp and control of the drone for yourself. Thanks to the increased wireless range here, the Bluetooth-enabled Flypad can now reach the drone up to 330 feet away, a substantial increase from the original Mambo's 200 feet. The camera, meanwhile, is connected to your phone and the FreeFlight Mini app via Wi-Fi. Once you're ready for takeoff, the Mambo is a solid, reliable beginner drone with all the visceral joy and inevitable minor complaints that come with it.
With a more sophisticated hobby drone like Parrot's own Bebop 2 Power, you have an embedded camera that digitally makes up for the physical swaying of the UAV when it lurches forward or retreats. This allows for the image stabilization, though digital, to provide a pretty balanced and stable image. The Mambo, of course, trades picture quality and stabilization in for a decrease in size and cost. It's understandable, as this is clearly aimed at less snobby drone users, as an entry-level UAV that does the basics well enough to warrant its existence. The FPV experience will definitely win you over, regardless of imperfect stabilization and somewhat pixelated image quality. Flying an intuitively controlled drone and looking through its camera with your own eyes is an experience like no other, and even with the minor flaws inherent in the Mambo FPV's tech specs, it provides for a really fun flying experience.
What Else is New?
The Mambo FPV comes with three new flight modes: Normal, Drift, and Racing. The first option will stabilize both horizontal and vertical movement, for those wholly inexperienced piloting UAVs, while Drift only stabilizes the Y-axis for more precise turns. Racing, of course, stabilizes nothing whatsoever, as it's intended for professional drone racers capable of fully controlling their UAVs on their own.
Added to that, this newer model has an increased flight time. Whereas the original Mambo was capable of providing seven minutes of fun, the Mambo FPV can handle 10—that is, unless you're streaming FPV footage the whole time, which lowers that to about eight minutes. Besides that, the only real differences are a negligible weight increase from 2.22 ounces to 2.24 ounces.
The Mambo FPV model comes packaged with a much more memorable experience than its predecessor. Instead of chucking pellets at your unsuspecting family members and attempting to claw at things, you can now record footage in 720p and engage in a fairly immersive first-person flight experience. That alone, frankly, is enough to warrant the current $179.99 price in favor of the older model's lower $109.99. Oftentimes, companies will force customers to buy peripheral items in order to get the full experience, but Parrot made a strong effort to provide affordable, memorable entertainment with this latest output. Everything you need—drone, camera, Cockpitglasses, Flypad, battery, USB charging cable, and instruction manual—is included. If you're in the market for a user-friendly, first-person view drone with decent albeit unremarkable hardware, this one's for you.