With all the interest surrounding aerial drones of late, it might seem like a step backwards for Parrot to come out with a quirky two-wheeled vehicle that rolls around on the floor. But after spending some time with its new, spring-loaded minidrone, we can report the Jumping Sumo is quite a fun little toy.
Parrot launched the Jumping Sumo earlier this year alongside its Rolling Spider mini-quadcopter. Like the Rolling Spider, the Jumping Sumo is controlled via Parrot's FreeFlight 3 mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, while Windows 8.1 support is on the way. But unlike the Rolling Spider, it connects over Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, meaning it has a much greater range of 50 m (165 ft).
The Jumping Sumo has a top speed of 7 km/h (4.5 mph), with a slider on the left of screen to control acceleration and braking. Steering, however, does get a little bit trickier. There are buttons for 90 and 180 degree turns when at a standstill, but to perform more precise maneuvers on the go you'll need to rely on the control device's accelerometer.
The Jumping Sumo's secret weapon is a spring system built into its backside. This enables the drone to jump at two different trajectories. One will launch it around 80 cm (31 in) into the air, which is useful for hopping up onto surfaces, while the other takes a more horizontal approach for clearing 80 cm (31 in) gaps in its path. The wheels are also adjustable and can be left out wide for extra stability or snapped into a closer stance for navigating tight spaces.
So at this stage, you might be thinking that the Jumping Sumo is nothing more than a glorified remote control car. And you'd probably be right, if not for a front-facing video camera that streams all the action to the screen of your mobile device. While the quality isn't great, with video taken at 640 x 480 pixels and 15 fps, it will show you the world through the eyes of a miniaturized rolling robot and is probably just enough reconnaissance capability for Parrot to market this toy as a drone.
There are also a number of tricks that the Jumping Sumo can perform, such as spins, jumps and spinning jumps. The battery life of 20 minutes is decent, though not exceptional when you consider it takes 90 minutes for a full recharge. This is compounded by the fact that the battery can only be recharged while in the drone. One other criticism is the lack of onboard storage, meaning to record any video you'll need to plug a Micro USB flash drive into its front – it would have been nice to be able to record on the mobile device controlling it like Parrot's AR Drone.
The Jumping Sumo won't act as an introduction to drone piloting like its high-flying counterpart. But then again, that's not really the idea. What we can say is if it's pure fun you're after, then you could do worse than picking up one of these jiggers. And at least then you'll know what you're dealing with if one rolls under your restroom door.
The Jumping Sumo retails for US$160 and is available now through Parrot's website.