Domestic Spying: Mini-Drone Can Watch Neighbors From Above

Benjamin Fearnow
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$300 mini-drone enables civilians to keep an eye - and two HD cameras - on the locals. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

$300 mini-drone enables civilians to keep an eye – and two HD cameras – on the locals. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS) – Your neighbors’ fences are no longer tall enough.

While President Obama takes flak for the US’s use of unmanned drone attacks abroad, there is a smaller, smartphone-controlled drone hovering above urban rooftops and suburban backyards: The Parrot AR Drone 2.0.

The Parrot AR Drone 2.0, listed on Amazon just below $300, is the best way to live out one’s fantasy of being a spy. The miniature drone is controlled through your iPhone or iPad and features multiple sensors, including a hi-definition front-facing 720-pixel camera and a vertical camera looking straight down from the bottom of the miniature quadricopter (four propellers).

The 2.0 model – the first version was released in 2010 – also lets you record video and take pictures during flight and easily share them online.

Controlling the drone is intuitive and touch-sensitive to the iPod or iPad controller. Power it on and the four propellers will lift the miniature aircraft up off the ground. Simply press a button and the drone will rise up a meter higher into the air and then sit and wait for your next command. To move the drone around, simply tilt your iPhone or iPad in any direction you desire.

The WiFi remote connection from one’s phone only extends 200 feet, which is shorter than it sounds, according to many users in the blogosphere. But to use your phone just install the AR Freeflight 2.0 application in a matter of seconds. One can see what the mini-drone is seeing in real-time through your Apple device.

Bloggers and users online have reported that you can also find hacks online that will turn the drone into a hunter-seeker or make it follow you around like a pet. The AR Drone also comes with a protective Styrofoam hoops accessory for indoor flying. However, the material apparently breaks pretty easily.

The Parrot AR 2.0 Drone is the most affordable miniature drone on the market. However, according to customer service write-ups on Amazon and Parrot’s website, it seems like Parrot may have some kinks to work out of both its customer service and WiFi product.

Just don’t tell your neighbors.

Price: $300

Weight: 380 grams with outdoor hull; 420 grams with Styrofoam indoor hull

Motors: 4 brushless 14.5-watt, 28,500 RPM in-runner motors

Battery: 3 elements 1,000 mA/hour LiPo rechargeable

Camera: 720p, 30fps HD

Lens: 92-degree diagonal wide angle

Processor: 1 GHz 32-bit ARM Cortex A8

—Benjamin Fearnow

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