The cheapest of the range of Parrot drones is decidedly fun. The Mambo is intended for beginners who want to discover piloting with an evolving device and equipped with stabilization systems, but also have fun with its accessories.

Presentation

The Parrot Mambo drone stands out for its modularity. We can thus add a clamp and a ball launcher (Mambo Mission pack) or even a camera (Mambo FPV pack) – the different packs are displayed in our price table above. In addition to the possibility of capturing photos and videos, the camera gives the device immersion flight capabilities when it is associated with the Parrot Cockpitglasses 2 mask – or other virtual reality mask for smartphones.

Those who just want a drone to fly on sight can be satisfied with the Mambo Fly, the “naked” version of the Mambo, sold at the recommended retail price of € 109 and simply including the drone, its battery, a USB cable and four hulls to protect the propellers. The Mambo Mission is displayed at € 159, while the Mambo FPV is € 179. Be careful however, without a camera, no video return is logically possible and the drone can only be controlled in direct view, which is not without consequence for the user experience, as we will see.

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1. Parrot Mambo Mission

2. Parrot Mambo Fly

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But what is this funny black and white insect? With its two small diodes at the front arranged like a pair of eyes, the Parrot Mambo differs from other drones by its nice little face – it is however more reassuring with its eyes lit in green (sufficient battery level) than ‘in red (low battery or error). Quite compact, it fits into a 17.5 cm square with its fairing (15.2 cm without).

Although its structure is quite rigid, the flexible plastics of which it is composed do not necessarily reassure as to its robustness; the fine protection of the underside, in particular, bends and creaks all too easily if you pinch the drone to fix its modules. The Ryze / DJI Tello, for example, seems much more solid and better finished than this Mambo.

The Parrot drone is however almost 20 g lighter compared to its competitor, displaying 69.5 g on the scales, battery and propeller protections included (65.1 g without fairing), although it is necessary to add the 10 g of its optional camera so that the comparison is really relevant. The Mambo thus gives more the impression of a toy than the Tello. But at least it does not mislead on its purely playful vocation.

However, we would have preferred that the propeller protections were better fixed to the drone’s arms. Because they tend to come off far too easily in the event of an impact. At least we can easily remove them for outdoor use, to gain aerodynamics, weight and therefore maneuverability and autonomy.

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The Parrot Mambo only works with a smartphone, via the FreeFlight Mini app. An application that has gained in maturity, but unfortunately still suffers from some bugs with some smartphones like our Huawei P8 with which it refuses to launch since the last update. No problem, however, with a Galaxy S6, for example, the stability of the link during our tests was irreproachable. It is therefore better to check that everything is working right after purchase, to have time to return the device in case of problems.

The connection is made directly via Bluetooth if there is no need for video feedback, or via Wi-Fi when the camera is installed. Buyers of the Mambo Fly – without camera or controller. Therefore – must settle for touch controls, which are however sufficient for quiet flights, with assistance activated. The interface (screenshot below) then presents two virtual joysticks in the middle of the screen, the upper part being occupied by several buttons allowing access to the parameters, to take off or land the drone or to return to the home screen. 

Flight

The Parrot Mambo takes off at the touch of a button and stabilizes about 1 m above the ground. You can also take it off from the hand by activating an option and launching it upwards. By default, the drone is stabilized horizontally and vertically, so that it hardly moves when the controls are released. This stability however reaches its limits outdoors if there is a little wind and it is better to keep the smartphone or the controller in hand to be ready to correct any drifts.

For more control, it is better to choose to fly in Drift mode with horizontal stabilization disabled or even in Race mode without any stabilization. Drone for beginners requires, it is necessary to do without “acro” mode which usually allows, on racer or freestyle oriented devices, to perform aerial figures manually and to pilot without any assistance (no reworking of the drone).

In terms of noise pollution, the Mambo is unfortunately not the most discreet, generating a rather strident and therefore unpleasant noise. Nothing unusual for a mini drone, but be aware that it is not a device to use when someone listens to music or watches TV, for example.

Image quality

The Parrot Mambo Fly does not include a front camera by default. It is only available as an option and sold with the FPV pack. The drone is however well equipped with a small camera on its belly. But it mainly serves to stabilize it by filming the ground at 60 fps. Its very low definition sensor nevertheless allows you to take a few photos in 640 x 480 px (around 60. KB per image in Jpeg). Parrot does not hesitate to indicate the possibility of taking selfies and saving them in the internal memory of the. Mambo (31 MB available). The quality is so bad, however, that one wonders why there is such a result.

To take advantage of slightly more interesting video capabilities, you must therefore turn to the Mambo’s optional Wi-Fi camera. It simply attaches like a children’s play brick on top of the drone, four connectors ensuring its power and its connection to the device. A microSD card slot is provided on the back for direct recording of photos and videos. No miracle however, the videos are limited to 720p at 30 fps, which mainly allows us to record flights to keep a memory of our possible exploits – or crashes, it depends. Of course, we should not expect to capture beautiful panoramas, even with the dedicated video mode allowing fluidity of orders

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This camera is in fact mainly designed for immersion flight. That is to say to pilot while having the impression of being in the drone itself. To do this, insert your smartphone into the Cockpitglasses 2 mask – or other similar virtual reality mask for smartphones – after activating the “VR” mode in the FreeFlight Mini application. The mask incorporates two lenses with adjustable interpupillary distance. But the camera only filming with a single lens, the vision is not in. 3D unlike what one can see in a classic virtual reality mask. It therefore takes a little time to adapt, especially to fully appreciate the distances. But this is common to almost all drones.

The video link is digital and is done via Wi-Fi. If the image quality is fairly correct when you fly slowly, it degrades quickly with speed and distance. We then observe a significant pixelation linked to video compression. We certainly keep a visible image rather than undergoing cuts and this allows us to continue to control the drone. But it is better to calm the game quickly and get closer to the smartphone so as not to risk losing the drone. 

Likewise, the latency is noticeable if you are used to the speed of an analog link at 5.8 GHz like that used for racing drones. As a direct consequence, if beginners will be able to taste the sensations of piloting in immersion. There is no question of qualifying the Mambo as a drone made for racing. It lacks too much responsiveness to slalom between close obstacles. Too bad, since the Mambo is otherwise lively enough and could have lent itself to the game of racing with a more reactive video link.

Autonomy

The Mambo in its Fly and Mission versions is supplied with a 550 mAh LiPo battery. Without camera, after 8 minutes of hovering indoors, the drone triggers an alert, its diodes then flashing in red until it ends up landing automatically when its battery runs out of energy, after 9 min 15 s. It then takes about thirty minutes to replenish your energy with a 2.4 A charger.

The FPV version comes with a 660 mAh battery to compensate for the increase in consumption due to the use of the camera. No miracle anyway, we lose 3 minutes of autonomy with the latter. This is logically less than the Tello which, thanks to its 1100 mAh battery, can last ten minutes – at the cost, on the other hand, of a softer behavior.

STRONG POINTS

  • Easy to take in hand and pleasant to fly.
  • Several flight modes.
  • Flypad controller for more control (option on Mambo Fly).
  • Modularity.
  • Immersion flight.

WEAK POINTS

  • Disabling latency and video compression for fast flights.
  • Fairing that jumps too easily.
  • Perfectible stability, especially outdoors.
  • Noisy.

CONCLUSION

Ideal for beginners, the Mambo allows you to familiarize yourself gently with piloting a drone thanks to its deactivated assistance. However, it shows its limits when you start targeting the race because of the latency inherent in its Wi-Fi video link. However, remove a star from the final note for the other versions, which are more limited due to the lack of a camera, and forget the Mambo if you already know how to fly and are looking for a really powerful drone.

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