Available for preorder: Parrot Rolling Spider.
Available for preorder: Parrot Rolling Spider.

French technology company Parrot today official launched two new “toys” into the Australian market: the Rolling Spider (RRP $139) and the Jumping Sumo (pictured below, RRP $219).

These two ‘MiniDrones’, which will be available from retailers in August 2014, are currently available for preorder from Parrot’s retail partner websites. Parrot lists Apple, Harvey Norman, EB Games, Myer and “leading retailers” as current preorder partners.

Since launching its original AR.Drone ‘quadcopter’ and its successor, the AR.Drone 2.0, four years ago, Parrot has been a market leader in ‘appcessories’, an amusing portmanteau that essentially refers to ‘big boys’ toys’, though without the gender specification. Parrot ANZ MD Chris Roberts said today that, globally, the company has sold 700,000 of these smartphone- and tablet-controlled toys — his own description — though he three times refused to answer the relevant question, how many have been sold in Australia.

Parrot will be banking heavily on the release of these two admittedly impressive toys to sell well. The company has faltered in the past 18 months, with its full-year earnings for calendar 2013 collapsing by 92 per cent to 1.6 million euro, compared to earnings of 24.5 million euros in 2012.

Parrot’s Australian and New Zealand subsidiary recorded an operating income loss of AU $139,000 from revenues of only AU $420,000 in its most recent reporting period, the first half of 2013. Parrot ANZ declined an opportunity to comment on these results.

Globally, retail sales of drones make up 15 per cent of Parrot’s revenues, according to its most recent annual reports, and in real money terms, contribute 42.1 million euros to the company’s bottom line, which is stable compared to the previous year. The company has publicly said that it is relying on sales of new Drone models to drive growth as there have been “lower Parrot AR.Drone 2 sales [as it’s now] two years after its release”.

The two new MiniDrones are certainly eye-catching and amusing. The Rolling Spider is a flying drone that can also roll along the ground, up walls and even across the ceiling; while the Jumping Sumo is a non-flying robot that can jump up to 80 centimetres into the air. The demonstration of both today at the media launch amused assembled journalists and bloggers, as this photograph attests (with the Flying Spider circled in case it is too hard to spot):

drone 2

Both the Flying Spider and the Jumping Sumo come with a range of colourful stickers so users can personalise their intrepid explorers and both are compatible with Apple, Android and Windows 8.1 smartphones and tablets. One slight difference between the two is that the Rolling Spider is controlled via Bluetooth while the Jumping Sumo is controlled via Wi-Fi. The apps to control the devices are free.

Parrot ANZ MD Chris Roberts said a question he gets asked a lot is, ‘Why toys’?

“Because it’s fun,” he said. “Toys are fun. We like having fun and innovating and making products for us is fun, so why toys? Why not!”

The Rolling Spider has a battery life of 8 minutes while the Jumping Sumo can rove for 20 minutes, both off a 1-hour charge time. There are replacement batteries available for consumers looking to enjoy longer periods of MiniDroning.

Coming to retail in August: Parrot Jumping Sumo.
Coming to retail in August: Parrot Jumping Sumo.